I have experienced very few things as strange as Shaggy’s Nov. 12 concert at the Theatre of Living Arts. Personally, I only know a handful of his songs, all early-2000s material featuring crooning Caribbean artists’ lyrics interspersed with rapped verses from the heavily accented Shaggy, who is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. From the amount of singing along that accompanied each of his songs, it was clear that most people there knew a much larger amount of his music, new and old. His newer material is focused more on a reggae sound, which he introduced during his set by saying, “Allow me to bring Jamaica to you.” This most recent music is on an album titled “Out of Many, One Music,” which also served as the name of his current world tour.
This is the tour that brought the rapper to the stage of the TLA. The venue itself is medium-sized, and when I arrived slightly after the 8 pm starting time, was at roughly half capacity. While Shaggy’s music has been familiar to me from a young age, most of those in attendance were clearly adult fans of even his earliest work. Many of the concertgoers were middle-aged. Representatives from each age group dropped proportionally from there, with only a small group of teens standing directly in front of the stage. I was certainly in the minority, as 20-somethings were few and far between.
The stage was largely undecorated, with a simple white banner on the back wall advertising Shaggy’s Twitter handle and website, which is exactly what one would expect from an artist whose heyday is the late ‘90s and early 2000s: http://www.Shaggyonline.com. A few Jamaican flags were draped over various instruments and turntables near the back of the stage.
Initially, I thought that DJ Champe, the opening act, was late to the stage. The amount of chatter in the room was consistent with that which would accompany the lull before a show. However, it soon became apparent that the lone man onstage was, in fact, DJ Champe. I had been under the impression that he was setting up for the performer, and what I mistook for background music was actually his set. He never glanced up from his turntable, and, after about 30 minutes, left the stage to very sporadic and halfhearted applause.
The transition to bring Shaggy onstage was long and drawn-out. Two DJs came onstage and stood near the back, playing 20-second clips of rap, rhythm and blues, hip hop, and reggae songs in quick succession, including classics like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” After slowly bringing more musicians onstage, including a guitarist and two backup singers, Shaggy finally made an appearance. The crowd, which had been dancing and singing to the song clips for about half an hour, erupted in cheers.
After playing only one song, Shaggy turned to the crowd and yelled, “Are you turnt? My sh-t is turnt up!” He challenged the crowd to be more hype than his previous few concerts, ticking them off on his fingers. The audience crowded closer to the stage, bunching together and cheering for the singer. “Turnt up” was one of Shaggy’s go-to phrases of the night. At one point he admitted to getting a little too “turnt” backstage before the concert, hinting that he was slightly under the influence. From the smell of things, so were some of the concertgoers, clearly having smuggled in pot. Shaggy repeatedly asked his audience to raise their hands if they were drunk. Later, he asked them to raise their hands if they wanted to be drunker. Both were met with lots of noise and, some moments later, a tide of patrons making their ways to the bar at the back of the venue.
His hit song “Angel” was met with enthusiasm, as was “Boombastic.” During “Boombastic,” Shaggy stuck his microphone down the front of his pants and thrust it at the audience. He introduced the song by saying, “Anybody want to get pregnant tonight, ladies? Because by the end of this song, you will be pregnant.” The merchandise all said “Mr. Boombastic,” and the singer sometimes refers to himself as such. To move some of that merch, Shaggy said, “They’re telling me we can’t fit it all back on the bus, so go buy some.”
The highlight of the evening was when Shaggy performed “It Wasn’t Me.” If I’m being honest, this is the only song I was really hoping to hear. From the reaction it received, I’d be willing to bet that many of my fellow audience members felt the same way. The song tells the story of a man (Rikrok, in the 2000 recording) who goes to his friend’s house, telling him that his girlfriend caught him cheating. Over the course of the song, he tells Shaggy all of the places around his house that he had sex with his neighbor, with Shaggy repeatedly telling him to tell his girlfriend, “It wasn’t me.”
After the song ended, Shaggy said, “There’s a reason why this song was made. Men always get caught. Women never get caught. You know why? Because men, we are stupid. And women! Women are smart. You must not do like Tiger Woods. You should do like the true undisputed player of all players, Bill Clinton.” He then, in a perfect impression of the former president’s voice, repeated the infamous phrase, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
He ended the concert with a few new songs, including “Go F-k Urself.” Before his last song, Shaggy said, “I didn’t come here for the cheesesteak. I came here for only one reason. For the women!” The end of his set was met with applause and deafening cheers as the singer made his way offstage.
While it certainly wasn’t a typical night out, the entire show was a blast. Shaggy is still in top shape as a rapper and performer, and his age (he’s now 46) hasn’t tamed him at all. From start to finish, he put on a great show and the crowd definitely had fun.