Sean Paul / Big Brovaz - MEN Arena - 16.6.04

There comes a certain age in life where very few things can scare you. You've stood face to face with gangsta's at Ice T and Moss-sidaz gigs, been told to calm down by hardcore punks at Sex Pistols gigs and pushed your way through several thousand drunk Oasis fans. You can imagine our surprise then when we walk into a Sean Paul gig and are faced with groups of security dragging bleeding men kicking and screaming out of the building, but that wasn't even the worst of what was to come...the ragga / bashment / attitude girls are a completely different breed coming across like Vicky Pollard from Little Britain only dangerous and probably as likely to kill you with their stare as with a knife. This is of course Sean Paul's appeal, a little grimy, a little rough round the edges and still pop enough to be a regular on the likes of TOTP and CD:UK. From the streets to the cosy suburban Barretts estates, Sean Paul is probably the biggest international reggae crossover star since Bob Marley (and those giggling at the back can stop whispering the mighty Pato Banton and Shaggy cos the dutty man wins hands down in the Reggae version of Top Trumps)

Big Brovaz open things up minus Flawless who proved he's not flawless by name as well as nature when he tried to smuggle illegal substances into the US. Maybe not the wisest move when the US Airport security are more alert than ever, but we're still holding out that Flawless will be back in the crew in a Brian Harvey style change of heart. Working their way through the hits "Nu Flow" still sounds like a great Outkast remix, "Favourite Things" is a bling bling anthem and hilariously camp at the same time and the new songs of the second album thankfully sound nothing like "We Want To Thank You" from the Scooby Doo soundtrack. Instead they're a little more beats led, more hip hop than R&B lite and should hopefully stand a chance of breaking the band in the states. A tender moment comes in the ballad "Baby Boy" when every single man in the audience drops the bad boy stance and gets romantic with his lady. They only had 25 minutes to prove their worth and Big Brovaz came out on top!!!

It's hard to gauge at which point Sean Paul truly crossed over into the mainstream. "Dutty Rock" was initially released alongside the Kevin Little album and sold steadily, but it wasn't really until the Blu Cantrell collaboration on "Breathe" that he really made a name for himself outside the urban circuit. In fact look back and you'll find versions of "Gimme The Light" surfaced way back in 1997. It's this track that he blows the joint up with at the Arena and from that moment its a none stop skanking and bogle session for all concerned. The hits can literally be counted on two hands - the aforementioned "Gimme The Light", "Get Busy", "I'm Still In Love With You", "Like Glue" as well as the Blu Cantrell and Beyonce collaborations thrown in for good measure. But despite this the vibe didn't dip once on a storming show which succeed where most urban gigs fail. "Dutty Rock" is brought to life with a live band, a DJ and a 2 MCs, each word delivered crisp and clear working the audience into a non stop frenzy. The group of semi-clad dancers often take the attention away from the mainman, but in comparison to recent shows from the likes of 50 Cent and Beyonce this really is head and shoulders above the rest.

A cover of the great Bob Marley would often descend into a patronizing cover, but with Sean Paul it seems so fitting when he picks something a little more rootsy and obscure. Never before have reggae artists brought together audiences of different ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds on both sides of the atlantic before as Sean Paul and Bob Marley. Roll on the next time!!!

Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride -

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