Lionel Richie’s JITG performance ‘easy like Sunday morning’
Imagine this: a darkened stage, no music and then you hear just one word — “hello”. That could only mean one thing, and it was that the most requested artist on social media, Lionel Richie, had arrived to the Jazz In The Gardens (JITG) stage. No more introduction was needed.
After his simple debut, devoid of any flash or bang, the legendary superstar delivered a performance that was “easy like Sunday morning” at the 14th annual music festival. But to be honest, there was absolutely nothing easy about it at all. Richie successfully capped what in totality (despite a hiccup or two) was an amazing year for the lineup.
Richie’s only stress was in having to decide which songs he would pull from his catalogue to perform on the Hard Rock Stadium stage in the City of Miami Gardens. But he chose well, giving a little of himself and then running through hits with The Commodores as well as bringing some of the “Fire” from the Ohio Players to the delight of fans.
Dressed simply in black with a jacket for that sparkle effect, Richie concluded his set with the delivery of “All Night Long” at just past midnight, which we all knew signaled the end of his performance and the close-out to a successful event, but of course no one wanted the party to end.
Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Before Richie took to the stage, there was the performance of Stephanie Mills, one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music. Fans knew that the diminutive vocal powerhouse was going to lay it down – and she did on Saturday, even though she questioned her own relevance prior to the two-day City of Miami Gardens music festival since she hasn’t released any new music in recent times.
There were no gimmicks with her performance; the soulful songstress let her vocals do the ‘talking’. It was all about the music for Mills, who took to the stage in a pair of black pants and a simple sleeveless top to perform. Nothing distracted from her delivery, not even makeup, which she knew she would simply sweat off, because she was going to put it down.
She delivered the soul-stirring performance her fans love and appreciate, and they showed their appreciation for Mills and her music by showing her the love.
Mills, who took the stage on Saturday’s night one, even introduced her son, Jason, who clearly inherited her vocal chops and sang background vocals, as well as the other backup singers during their delivery of “Power of Love”.
If, by some chance, for some unknown reason, a music festival attendee didn’t know Mills’ voice or her music, well, they do now. And for her existing fans, her performance was a real treat.
Doug E. Fresh, otherwise known as the “human beat box”, who has been on the JITG stage in previous years and is known as a great entertainer, did just that once again.
Doug E. Fresh still continues to put on a show when he performs. You knew he was ready to bring the heat and show out when he shrugged off his black leather jacket. The “greatest entertainer” had the crowd on their feet from the moment he stepped onto the stage and throughout his set. He led a dance party to close out Saturday night, refusing to leave the stage until he was literally kicked off in the early hours of Sunday morning, because, well, people had to rest up to return for day two that afternoon.
You just had to put your hands together for legendary smooth trio the O’Jays on Sunday, a group with a connection to an era and a sound that formed the soundtrack for the lives of several generations. The group that’s been performing for 60 years didn’t take the stage without its classic dance routines; performing were core original lead singers Eddie Levert, who is known for his raspy voice and range, and Walter Williams, joined by Eric Grant.
With all these powerhouses taking to the stage, not to be forgotten were the performances of Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Teddy Riley & Friends, featuring Blackstreet and Dave Hollister; special guest En Vogue; and male quartet Jagged Edge, who were stellar in their delivery of a stacked Saturday lineup.
The only low point on Saturday night was Bobby Brown, whom many people had high hopes for. But Brown had a rough time trying to get through the two songs he tried to deliver seated, and seemed out of it. Guy, the surprise artist of the evening, came out with Brown on his “My Prerogative” opener, but nothing could help Brown. Two songs and he was done, leaving the audience stunned. But Doug E. Fresh cleaned up well after that debacle to close out Saturday’s night one on a high.
Sherronda Daye & Friends got day two off to a beautiful start, followed by Tye Tribbett, who delivered the gospel and brought the house down for those who dared to venture out early in the heat of the day. And it just continued to get better when the JITG All Stars, featuring Nelson Rangell, Chieli Minucci, Gerald Veasley and Maysa, ran through their sets.
Eclectic violinists Black Violin, who upend cultural and musical stereotypes with their unexpected blend of classic and hip-hop beats, also got the opportunity to introduce themselves to new fans.
Like Saturday night, Sunday had a low point, and it surprisingly came in the person of R&B songstress Brandy, who never got the audience engaged in her performance, which just fell flat. Brandy even acknowledged that she knew the audience was there to see Lionel Richie before she ended her set by asking for those people who wanted her to leave the stage to stand up. The audience did as she requested, and stood up. Brandy left the stage to make way for Richie.
Despite the Brown/Brandy hiccup, the JITG music festival in totality was a huge success. Now we wait with bated breath to see what the organizers will pull out of the hat in 2020, and whether they can top 2019. And let’s be honest — this is a statement I say every year, and every year they just do it.