Author: Guardian
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Page#: G-Life 2
News Reporter: Clevil James

Mighty Sparrow at Toronto Harbourfront - Stellar Performance

From the long list of Caribbean cultural activities that were happening last night, August 4, 2006, the night before Caribana, I narrowed my choices down to two, the steelpan competition coined Pan Alive, at Lamport Stadium, or the Sparrow Show at Habourfront.

I headed for downtown, where both events were being staged, and it was en route that I decided I would first go to see Sparrow, then check Pan Alive. Needless to say, I never made it to Pan Alive. I experienced a performance by the Birdie and that sufficed.

Show time was 9:30 p.m. and I arrived down there at 9:00 p.m. I should have known something special was happening when I could not find a parking lot in the vicinity that did not wear the sign "Lot Full". After circling the block a few times, I decided to bite the bullet and pay the premium price for underground parking. After all, the Sparrow Show was free, it didn't cost a thing, so I could afford to at least pay for the "foolish" parking.

I parked and headed toward point central, noticing that the crowd was getting thicker as I proceeded. On a stage near the entrance, a group of drummers and dancers were performing for a boisterous and appreciative audience. "Is this where Sparrow will be performing afterwards"? I asked myself. I wasn't sure so I decided to penetrate a little further into the belly of the harbourfront, and there it was, another gathered crowd, event thicker than the one out front. As the late comedian-calypsonian Cypher, of "If The Priest Could Play Who is Me" fame, used to say "crowd so thick ah can't stick a pin".

I weaved my way through the anticipating crowd and made it close to the front on the left side of the stage, and who would I see, no other than our own calypso researcher and collector, George Maharaj. "Aye man how you doing" he bellowed over the buzzing crowd. George told me that the place was already full of people at 8 o'clock, one and a half hours before curtain time. We talked calypso while we waited for the show to start.

At exactly 9:30 sharp, lights, "curtain", the band Moses Revolution struck up a fanfare, and before the crowd realised it, there on stage was the reason for the excitement, the calypso king of the world himself, their hero, the one, the only, Slinger Francisco, The Mighty Sparrow. He looked young for a 70 year old.

He is now bi-spectacled and is a bit more portly than 20 years ago, but who isn't. Everyone who was seated was immediately on their feet dancing and swinging to the music. He opened with the song Margarita, to the delight of the crowd. He then eased into the melodic "Marajin". Sparrow smoothly and gracefully moved from tune to tune like only Sparrow can do.

He did many of his vintage songs like Lying Excuses and my favourite, the "not politically correct" Congo Man. The crowd ate it up. Every number was appropriately accompanied by charm and rapport with the audience, punctuated by a copious supply of "wining". Oh yes he could still "wine" and go down, to the delight of the ladies in the crowd. His lyrics were universal, his melodies contouring and syncopated, his diction crystal clear, his voice powerful and sweet, his presentation was impeccable, he was his original self, the incomparable Mighty Sparrow.

In what seemed like 20 minutes, an hour had passed and the birdie headed off stage. The crowd went wild and started a rhythmic applause as if they caught Sparrow fever. Shouts of more, more, accompanied by shrieking and whistling were enough to encourage the star back to the stage. He came back much to the pleasure of the audience, which showed its appreciation with more thunderous applause.

Sparrow then went on to mesmerize with such great sounds as his milestone Jean and Dinah, which won him the Monarch title in 1956, and Saltfish, that witty double -entendre about the consumption of salted cod. The crowd, including yours truly, seemed to know every line of these calypsos. He even sung the Frank Sinatra number My Way, and of course it was wonderfully done Sparrow's Way.

Throughout the show, everyone was singing and dancing, happy and smiling, some were even bumping, grinding and wining. Sparrow went off the stage with a bang, the audience expressed its satisfaction with its tumultuous applause. Everyone had a most wonderful time and a memorable evening being entertained by the extremely talented and gifted, that "meritorious celebrity", Slinger Francisco, The Mighty Sparrow.

After the concert an old man caught my ear when he whispered to his friend how he felt about the show. The feeble old man eloquently expressed "It was a Stellar Performance".