Buju Banton revealed no wear and tear from the controversy haunting his current United States tour by delivering an inspired performance in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday night.
The reggae/dancehall icon, who continues to promote his CD Rasta Got Soul despite opposition from the gay rights movement, which has publicly confronted him in the US, showed his talent and willpower are still in pristine condition. His 75-minute set underlined not only artistic brilliance but based on the reaction of the near-packed Center Stage theatre, made it clear that people are hungry to see him as well.
The largely Jamaican crowd, which showed up on a chilly night, was in no mood for anyone to dictate what they could or should hear. They danced and sang along to almost every song Banton offered.
Nowhere in or outside the theatre were there open signs of protest from the pro-gay movement that has dogged Banton’s tour for weeks and threatened future dates. But, according to emcee Jason Skywalker, the Center Stage had been a target.
Like elsewhere in the US, Banton’s feet are still being held to the fire over his song Boom Bye Bye recorded many years ago.
drawing on love
Yet, on Saturday, Banton armed with a catalogue of hits, turned up his own heat by drawing mainly on love, understanding and pure entertainment quality. It was clear, the Gargamel was in charge.
He was led onto the set by Gramps Morgan, of Morgan’s Heritage, who is promoting his own solo release Two Sides Of My Heart Vol 1. He too touched on the troubles of Banton’s latest US venture.
“All the fight that this tour has gone through,” said Gramps during his well-received performance, “we see that the Most High will carry us through.” He called on the audience to let Banton “know you got his back”.
They did, many packing the dance space directly in front of the stage, while others pranced, waved and sang by their seats. They rocked and roared to almost every chord the Shiloh Band struck.
Banton, meanwhile, did not – by name – address the controversy. But he did seem to call on his own resolve to survive it, declaring “The pressure gets hard, hold up your head”, when he sung I Rise from Rasta Got Soul. The message was different from the days of Boom Bye Bye.
“Let’s think about it,” Banton said. “The only way things will get better is when we stop murdering one another; stop envying and grudging” and turn to God.
The spiritual flavour of the night was set. A slew of ‘oldies’, Not An Easy Road, Till I’m Laid To Rest and Destiny among them, earned equal praise. So, too, a moving musical prayer with Gramps.
But the crowd lapped up the raunchier stuff too. Browning and Black Woman joined in, still fresh and bouncy. Deportee, Murderer and Driver showed the Banton train was still on a roll.
When the clock closed in on midnight, Banton was ready to go. The crowd wanted more but other US stops await. So too uncertainty.
Yet, in Atlanta, Buju Banton proved Rasta Got Soul and a lot of heart too.