Romain Virgo @ Tramshed, Cardiff

“And just like a knight in shining armour/I used my charm just to calm her”

ROMAIN VIRGO made his name as the winner of Jamaica’s Digicel Rising Stars talent contest in 2007 and more than 10 years on is touring the UK to promote his Lovesick album.

The route from talent show winner to stardom is more established on his home island than in European pop music but Virgo is a natural inheritor of the tradition of smooth as silk, male reggae singers. An impressive catalogue of singles have establish a reputation as a slick but considerate heart-throb. As his hour and a half on stage, that includes at least 25 songs, demonstrates – again in the tradition of Jamaican singers – it’s also a catalogue deeper than three LPs, of which Lovesick is the latest.

Virgo, backed by the Unit band, enters the stage singing his signature Love Doctor and carries on in a similar style, after a quick nod to roots artist Buju Banton, racing through Taking You Home, where he sings of how he uses his “charm just to calm her”, and Everlasting Love to delight the Saturday, April 7 crowd in Grangetown.

But with songs such as Beat You Down, with its call to “no mek no man beat you down…better you leave the clown”, and Who Feels It Knows which is dedicated to “all the hard-working people…fi a work from six inna the morning straight up to midnight” and breakout single Can’t Sleep, Virgo has more depth than simple love songs.

Another tradition Virgo upholds is the adoption of contemporary pop hits as reggae classics. Tonight he is briefly joined by support artist Sevana for his take on Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and the set obviously includes his take on blue-eyed soul boy Michael Bolton’s Soul Provider and Adele’s Don’t You Remember, which he makes “his own” in a way that TV talent show contestants are always told to do.

From the Lovesick album Virgo performs Work It Out, the title track and Trouble which leads into a powerful performance of the Gregory Isaacs reggae classic Night Nurse.

The Unit Band and Virgo also veered off into Toots and the Maytals’ 54-46 Was My Number and when the singer conducts two sides of the crowd and his band to sing Dancing in Love it sounds more like a choir than a Saturday night call and response.

The crowd had been eased into the show by up-and-coming Jamaican singer Savana whose mostly down tempo set steadily built the crowd in front of the stage with an audience that clearly warmed to her. Earlier Cardiff’s own rising reggae star Aleighcia Scott opened the stage show with some dancehall favourites after the city’s Love & Harmony Sounds set the scene. Seanie B from BBC Radio 1 Xtra handled compere duties and was clearly excited to introduce two talented female singers he confidently predicted will enjoy bright futures.

Photo courtesy of Donna-Marie Phillips-Sibanda

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