Sting & Shaggy: The 44/876 Tour

Saint Lucia, LC
St Lucia Jazz Festival

Sting and Shaggy rock on stage...

The final night of the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival on Mother’s Day May 14, dubbed The Ultimate Celebration, a celebration of St Lucian and Caribbean music excellence alongside a pop music living legend, was, for all intents and purposes, Sting & Shaggy in Concert and the rest.

The disparity between the headliners and the opening acts in their relative successes and accolades may look like an opportunity for connection and collaboration to get a toe in the door of a global music career, but on a local level, and certainly for this festival in 2023, some opportunities were missed.

There is no doubt that all the opening acts for Sting and Shaggy that night, exclusively St Lucian, are household names here: singers Irvin Ace Loctar and Teddyson John, and musicians Barbara Cadet and Ronald “Boo” Hinkson. But the potential for international media coverage of their performances was stymied by packed agendas and logistical hurdles that affected the full media presence, including TT Newsday, for the whole day of performances. Hopefully, these issues will be rectified as part of the future festival planning and development for what has become one of the biggest music festivals in the Caribbean, if not the biggest.

Officials of the St Lucia Tourism Authority have confirmed that the audience numbers and ticket sales were the highest recorded in years. This, it was said openly by St Lucians, was the happy return after six years to what Jazz in St Lucia is supposed to be; a grand celebration, highly popular among visitors and locals, filled with music superstars and family fun.

The cost-saving experiment of the SOLEIL – the St Lucia Summer Festival, begun in 2017 under the former administration of Allen Chastanet and spread over months, was not sustained after the pandemic, nor with a change of government and renewed vision for the festival.

Musicians who make it need to have a media presence. Industries of music, film, theatre have a media that support, report and widen the presence of those disciplines into the consciousness of the population. When media are prevented from covering the local musicians who do not have the media and marketing muscle of the majors, it is not helping. Modern social media is filled with "influencers" who are reporting on shows that are not informed nor have to show any journalistic scrutiny, acumen and gravitas. They were there in St Lucia. There is a demand for content to make algorithms work or satisfy editorial space. I have read newspaper reports of festivals regionally that have matter on the established stars, and are not willing to write or cover the opening acts. What happened in St Lucia, was that two out of nearly 20 international journalists were willing to cover Cadet, Teddyson John and Irvin Loctar, and other artists in the preceding days. I, for one, continue to wonder about that gulf in media coverage between established star and upcoming star.

Cadet, at her post-performance interview, speaking to three media people out of a couple dozens present, gave her impressions of what she did onstage.

“The guys (her band) have worked really hard. I think the audience liked it. We enjoyed it, we’re really happy, and we’re really grateful to the organisers for having us. And to you guys too (the media).”

The reciprocity was not there for Cadet, who continues on a 25-plus-years performing and recording career.

All the opening acts played with versions of Caribbean contemporary jazz. John noted that for the first time at the festival he reprised his performance of acoustic jazz variations of his compositions, Caribbean Moscato, which made its debut in 2020, and was reprised in Trinidad in February 2023 (and reviewed in this paper).

These performances reached their apex with guitarist Hinkson. A national icon and a longtime fixture of the festival, Hinkson knows his audience and plays effectively to their wants.

The grand picnic vibe of the afternoon was complemented, as darkness fell, with new original instrumental music and songs sung by the previously performing Loctar, and featuring Trinidadian saxophonist Anthony Woodroffe Jr, who was brought in as Hinkson’s guest. His smooth guitar and song compositions focused on love provided a relaxed introduction to the feature act.

Without any introduction by the MC, just a held chord and some fog-machine haze illuminated by purple light, Sting, in a slick yellow suit, glided on stage left with his bass, playing and singing Englishman in New York. Screams.

On verse 2, Shaggy strutted like a dandy in a broad-rimmed hat on stage right with his twist, Jamaican in New York. More screams.

From that point on, the two, who have an obvious and palpable friendship and collaborative partnership, alternated hit tunes from their respective catalogues, and their joint album 44/876. With their blended rhythm section – two separate drums and basses – Sting’s lyrically imaginative songs If You Love Somebody Set them Free, Fields of Gold, Shape of My Heart, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, and Desert Rose were countered by Shaggy’s In the Summertime, Oh Carolina, Strength of a Woman, Angel, It Wasn’t Me, Boombastic, and the 2020 cover of Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue.

Spice’s Go Down Deh which featured Shaggy, had thousands slowly squatting to the ground as an animated Shaggy told the crowd not to embarrass him, as he knows Caribbean people have rhythm and can go down, literally and figuratively.

It has been said that quality of the sound of a Sting concert is the best, as people who saw him at Plymouth Jazz Festival 2006 still attest. Intimate and separate, everything sounded clean and clear without being boomy.

New arrangements of songs from The Police – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, Walking on the Moon, So Lonely, Roxanne and the show-closer Every Breath You Take – worked well to preserve the songs’ legacies and provide sincere singalongs.

A pair of songs from their joint album – Don’t Make Me Wait and Morning is Coming– and a pair from the Sting-produced Shaggy tribute album to Frank Sinatra – Come Fly Wid Mi: That’s Life and the title track – showcased the dynamic of this partnership. It celebrates fun, it is respectful of each other’s talent, and it recognises that the reggae rhythm, which has been a part of Sting’s music output since The Police, still has enduring appeal.

In a night that was capped with actual fireworks at the festival's end, the audience happily heard echoes of Juice WRLD’s Lucid Dreams, with Sting’s background singer taking the helm, it also heard Old Blue Eyes and The Chairman of the Board in a reggae styling from Shaggy, and saw him fully showcasing his position as a premier Caribbean entertainer.


The crowd heard the magic of St Lucian music that night and every night. And for all the teething problems experienced and reported over the two weeks of the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, the emotional takeaway from Sting’s and Shaggy’s performance, as a wrap to the 2023 festival, was the possibility of growing the festival tourism industry there. Kudos to the organisers – and 2024 beckons new audiences and experiences.

(c) Trinidad & Tobago Newsday by Nigel Campbell