Scorching mid-summer temperatures in the tri-state didn’t take anything away from the resounding success of the inaugural ‘Groovin In The Park’ concert last Sunday, at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, New York. The sizzling one day extravaganza which paid tribute to the independence of three nations – the United States, celebrating its 236th as well as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago who are both celebrating 50 years of independence was highlighted with solid production and stellar performances, topped by the king of lovers rock reggae Beres Hammond and Jimmy Cliff who both turned in magnificent sets.
Beginning promptly at 1:30 pm, ‘Groovin In The Park’ got underway with Grammy award winning R&B vocal group Boyz 11 Men. The group had the ladies begging for more as they reeled off hits ‘Water Runs Dry,’ ‘I’ll Make Love To You, ‘Mama ‘and their 1992 Billboard hit single ‘End of The Road’ which earned the group their biggest ovation from fans.
When music legend, Jimmy Cliff romped on stage for a rare performance in New York, the crowd roared in anticipation. Cliff threw down a glittering high energy performance that excited fans. With numerous albums dating back to the 60’s, delivering the goods was easy for Cliff as he glided through popular hits like ‘Sitting in Limbo,’ ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want,’ ‘Wild World,’ ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ ‘Harder They Come’ and ‘Many Rivers to Cross.’
Dancehall King Beenie Man, being the consummate performer that he is, delivering a spirited, high energy, fun filled performance. He charmed fans with ‘Slam,’ ‘Old Dog,’ ‘Healing,’ ‘King Of The Dancehall,’ ‘Back It Up’ and ‘Wine Gal.’ Midway his set, Beenie Man invited his 16 year old daughter on stage for a cameo appearance before he delved further into his catalogue of hit songs. He however earned his biggest ovation when he did an adapted version of the Black Eye Peas hit song ‘I Got A Feeling’ which was capped with the moonwalk dance, made popular by pop star Michael Jackson.
When veteran reggae crooner Beres Hammond, hit the stage at close to 6pm, excitement and pandemonium broke out in anticipation of the tasty musical treat that was to be offered. ‘The ‘Boss’ dazzled the stage for well over 60 minutes, delivering a dynamic litany of love songs, including ‘Rockaway,’ ‘In Love With You,’ ‘What On Dance Can Do,’ ‘She Loves Me Now,’ ‘Step Aside’ among others. Supported by the Harmony House Band the reggae balladeer ran through other hits like ‘Tempted To Touch,’ ‘Golden Touch,’ ‘Double Trouble’ and ‘Putting Up Resistance.’ Midway his set, Beenie Man who was enjoying the performance from side stage, joined Hammond for a surprise cameo.
‘Empress of Soul’ Gladys Knight, who grabbed headlines last year for competing on the 14th season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” brought the curtain down on the festival at 8:15pm with her mega hit ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ which had the crowd hanging on to her every note. Other big hits from her catalogue which went over well with patrons included ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine,’ ‘Friendship Train,’ ‘If I Were Your Woman,’ ‘I Don’t Want To Do Wrong’ and the Grammy Award winning ‘Neither One of Us.’ which fans sang along word for word.
Gladys, Beres, Jimmy and vocal group Boyz 11 Men were each presented with Congressional Proclamations and City Council Citations after their performances for their contribution to the music industry. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, of the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York and Queens Council members Leroy Comrie and Ruben Wills made the presentations.
“The general feedback from patrons have been overwhelmingly positive. Most left the park feeling satisfied with the presentation” Christopher Roberts, CEO of Groovin Inc said.
“Most were caught off guard with the on time start of the event, the speedy band changes and the full length performances from each of the confirmed acts. I am happy to report that the Police, Fire and Parks Departments were also pleased with the seamless execution of the event and that it was an incident free concert. I must thank all the patrons who attended, the sponsors, our media partners and the support staff for making this a successful first time effort” he noted.
‘Groovin In The Park’ was sponsored by Grace Foods, WBLS, 107.5FM, Verizon Wireless, Vernon & Associates, VP Records and the Door Restaurant.