Backbeat: Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Maxi Priest Ali Campbell's UB40 Play Barclays Center First Reggae Concert
Backbeat: Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Maxi Priest Ali Campbell's UB40 Play Barclays Center First Reggae Concert

BioLife Sounds of Reggae was Brooklyn's Barclay's Center brought out some 13,000 fans.

The year-long series of celebrations honoring Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence wound down Dec. 12 with the largest Jamaican music event in New York for 2012, the first reggae concert at Brooklyn's recently opened Barclays Center. The BioLife Sounds of Reggae concert featured London born lovers' rock crooner Maxi Priest, dancehall superstar Shaggy, Ali Campbell's UB40 and Beres Hammond, regarded as one of Jamaica's finest practicing singer/songwriter. Presented by Jammins Entertainment, which has promoted reggae in the New York area since the late '80s, with title sponsorship provided by BioLife Energy Systems, the Sounds of Reggae Concert attracted an audience nearing the venue's set-up capacity of 13,000.

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Beres Hammond, whose "One Love One Life" album hit No.1 on the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart, performing at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. (Photo: Marlon "Ajamu" Myrie)

The night before Beres Hammond sat in with T he Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the venerable artist's first national US television appearance and a frequent conversation topic at the concert. "Beres is a superstar throughout the Caribbean but we want to take him to the next level and the Fallon show is a great platform for exposure," said publicist Tiffany Mea, Founder/CEO, With Love PR, who successfully pitched Beres to the Fallon show and handles PR for Beres' latest album "One Love One Life" (VP Records). And perhaps the appearances paid off: "One Love…"ascended to the No. 1 position on the Top Reggae Albums chart for the week of Dec. 29, after 5 weeks on the tally.

Maxi Priest opened the concert delivering selections from his hit-filled repertoire which boasts five songs that reached the Hot 100 including "Close to You", which reached the chart's pinnacle position on Oct. 6, 1990. Maxi told that his hits of the '80s and '90s laid the groundwork for a continually hectic touring schedule. "I am still in this, thank God and when you have a prestigious gig like tonight you think, 'yeah, people still remember those songs and call for the artists who actually, for lack of a better word, have done something,'" he said.

Maxi Priest whose had five songs reach the Hot 100. (Photo: Marlon "Ajamu" Myrie)

The audience waited patiently through technical mishaps that delayed Beres' performance by nearly 30 minutes. Then suddenly, as if revved up by BioLife's Energy Formula, they sprang to their feet, cheering Beres' arrival onstage, roaring their recognition at the rhythms played by his Harmony House band, loudly singing along to time tested favorites ("She Loves Me Now" 1985) and recent hits ("No Candlelight," 2012). A brilliant storyteller whose songs primarily detail the triumphs and defeats of romantic relationships, Beres' signature gut-wrenching passion summoned the soul of Otis Redding, the sensuality of Teddy Pendergrass and the sweetness of Sam Cooke.

A 40-year veteran, Beres' humility belies the reverence with which he is regarded in the reggae industry: he quickly refuted the notion he was the bill's star attraction. "Did you say headliner?" he queried. "I don't see myself that way. I am so proud to be a part of this show, I have the greatest respect for all of these artists and if I were a harmony singer here tonight, I would have been happy." Beres' 1994 album for Elektra Records "In Control" has sold 64,000 copies according to Nielsen Soundscan while his Grammy nominated 2001 effort "Music Is Life" (VP Records) has moved 40,000 units.

George Crooks (left) of Jammins Ent. with Beres Hammond (Photo: Marlon "Ajamu" Myrie)

George Crooks, CEO of Jammins Entertainment has promoted several Beres Hammond concerts in New York including a March 2002 appearance at The Theater At Madison Square Garden featuring the New York Philharmonic's string section playing alongside Beres' Harmony House band. The singer's inclusion in any lineup, says Crooks, insures a successful event. "Beres is among Jamaica's all-time greatest performers, people know that so they come out and that makes promotion easier," Crooks said. "I wanted the lovers rock sound for this event and Beres is the boss in that. Maxi Priest is one of the top five voices in reggae and UB40 has sold millions. You can't do a show like this without a dancehall segment and Shaggy represents that."

Shaggy (left), dancehalls best selling act with Red Fox. (Photo: Marlon "Ajamu" Myrie)

Born in Jamaica, Shaggy, dancehall reggae's best selling act (his press materials say he's sold 20 million worldwide; Nielsen-Soundscan has him selling 8.9 million in the U.S.) got his start in Brooklyn where he refined his distinctive, jocular toasting style working with local (reggae) sound systems. Shaggy wore his Brooklyn pride (Flatbush to be exact) on his t-shirt; supported by long time Brooklyn cohorts Rayvon and Red Fox, he consistently engaged the crowd with the polish of a Vegas showman, telling jokes, alternating between American slang and Jamaican patois, even impersonating Bill Clinton, an amusing introduction to his denial anthem "It Wasn't Me", which topped the Hot 100 on Feb. 3, 2001).

Off stage, Shaggy reflected on the significance of a major reggae concert in Brooklyn where 34% of the borough's 2.5 million residents are born in the Caribbean, according to a study by the Borough of Brooklyn/Brooklyn College. "Considering the caliber of acts that have already performed at the Barclays Center, Jay Z, The Rolling Stones, tonight is a milestone for the Caribbean community," Shaggy observed. "We came out in our numbers and showed the corporate entities that reggae is a force to be reckoned with."

Ali Campbell's UB40 closed the show in splendid style, albeit to a much smaller audience. His group is an offshoot of UB40. which he cofounded thirty-four years ago in Birmingham, England and left in 2008. The original group has sold more than 70 million records worldwide