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Rudder The return

By Terry Joseph
May 08, 2003

David Rudder They have come to be known as "Rudderites", this band of the faithful, many of them last Saturday deliberately missing calendar staples like Pan on the Move in Point Fortin, opting for a pilgrimage to worship at "the holy temple of soca", as their favourite son routinely dubbed venues at which he performed.

"I thought we did lorse him altogether," said a lady dressed in an adventurous combination of red, white and black-colours requested by the show's promoters-as she and a friend waited their turn at the bar. "Yuh know, when they get to foreign and t'ings get sweet it does be a horse of a different colour," she said, her tone pregnant with concern. "Not David," her friend consoled, "not David."

Currently resident in Toronto (not "migrated", he insists), it was therefore the triumphant return of David Michael Rudder to the local stage, having co-delivered (with Carl Jacobs) "Trini to the Bone", one of Carnival's biggest hits since his own "High Mas" five years ago.

Ostensibly home to celebrate his 50th birthday, Rudder also premiered works from his new CD Blessed and, at the same time, raised funds for a youth foundation developed in his name.

The multi-purpose event was staged at MO2BS in Chaguaramas and although the 1,600 chairs laid out at the venue weren't all filled, those who came rallied for the most part, a few allowing petulance over sight-line problems to vary normally effusive response to the charismatic singer.

For the many, provision of seating came as a surprise, but in a post-event chat with the Express, producer Ian Wiltshire (Island Style Promotions) said he felt the show demanded a more staid environment than previous Rudder jams, which have been known to transform otherwise sedate types into swaying masses, often at the mere sight of their hero.

But for a wide swath of Saturday night's audience, the view was disturbed after host Machel Montano invited a dancing bloc, hitherto courteously confined to the arena's extremities, to fill the space in front of the stage. In fact, it was the supreme irony, as Rudder had, in the past, regularly reminded them: "Your chairs are your enemies." That night, however, they wished to remain chair-friendly and listen, so when Montano offered the jammers prime location, a large body of Rudderites shouted "No!"

After all, many of the seated had been in place for the promised 9 p.m. start and were made to wait some 75 minutes before the national anthem heralded showtime. They knew a slew of cameos and guest performances would precede Rudder, but were peaceful in their penance.

True to its advertised promise, a Caribbean birthday bash ensued, with Jamaica's Junior Kelly, Martinique's Flo PG, Arturo Tappin from Barbados, Cuba's Alexis Barro, the home-team comprising H20 Phlo, Trini Jacobs and host Machel Montano.

Finally, at about 20 minutes after midnight, it was time for Rudder. Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved white cotton shirt that would progressively unfasten as the musical heat rose on an otherwise cool morning, he acknowledged the fans with trademark upraised arms.

The band was that night called the Multinational Force. Fundamentally powered by members of the Rapid Response Orchestra but enhanced by Cuban trumpeter Alexis Baro, Barbadian saxophonist Arturo Tappin and local string masters Al Bushe (bass) and guitarists Theron Shaw and Tony Voisin; the group delivered flawlessly under the baton of Wayne Bruno; who recently secured his Masters Degree in music from Northern Illinois University.

Rudder didn't disappoint. From note one, he had them in the palm of his hand, carefully kneading the mood, frequently adding spices, teasing little clips, like the guitar overture from "High Mas" or lead-in from "Trini to the Bone", ushering them to the brink, before diving headlong into an old favourite or new tantaliser.

Among the new were "Mastifay", a tribute to the recently departed stickfighter ("the man with the wood, the bois, the rod of correction"); then there was the Rudder-style jump and breakaway "I Wanna Fly", "The Rational Anthem", a salute to the music of Trinidad and Tobago; the love song "Driving Me Crazy" and its Carnival equivalent "That Girl" and, of course, "Trini to the Bone"; done Saturday with Montano and Trini-daughter of Carl and Carol Jacobs.

Included in the extended set culled from his vintage bag (funny how Rudder's works quickly become due for that description) was the timely "Rally 'Round the West Indies". We also heard and danced to "The Ganges and the Nile", "Wining in de Carnival", "Nuff Respect", "Long-time Band", "Bahia Girl", "Havana", "The Hammer" and the seminal "Calypso Music".

In the sum, it was more than two and a half hours of non-stop Rudder, taking his audience from the sombre to the surreptitiously salacious and back again, exploring calypso construction without the lecture and jamming in his tempered style, milking adrenaline city for every last ounce of energy, then coming back for a rousing encore.

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