No matter how many times Shaggy told the crowd to "throw your hands in the air" during his hour-long set at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Sunday night, July 16, 2006, there was never the sense the less-than-capacity audience was ready to fully succumb to the dancehall reggae star.
Shaggy (whose real name is Orville Richard Burrell) brought plenty of good-time party music, blending reggae and hip-hop in equal measures with his ladies-man persona, to his headlining slot at the Orange County Fair ReggaeFest, which also featured Pato Banton and Wailing Souls.
That's not to say Shaggy's 11-song set completely faltered. There were moments, particularly during a strong cover of the Folkes Brothers' 1960 single "Oh Carolina," that he and several others singers blended R&B vocals with a "Peter Gunn"-style surf guitar lick to great effect.
The best stretch came when he delivered "In the Summertime" and "Angel" (a reworking of the country-Western classic "Angel of the Morning") back-to-back. However, some of his most recent material, "Hey Sexy Lady" and "Strength of a Woman," lacked punch.
Because of the seemingly endless between-songs chatter and efforts to get the crowd to respond to his pleas to wave their hands or call out this way or that, his performance never gained any lasting momentum. He might well take a pointer or two from his energetic namesake in the "Scooby-Doo" cartoons to keep the action moving ahead.
Birmingham, England's Pato Banton has been a force on the reggae scene for almost 25 years and continues to inspire, as he proved over the course of his 10-song set.
Backed by the powerful six-member Mystic Roots Band, the talented singer/toaster sang songs geared toward having a good time, but with deeper messages centering on his religious faith, the need for world peace and the legalization of marijuana (even while discouraging the use of hard drugs during a lively "Don't Sniff Coke").
However, his hour-long appearance really captured the artistic heights of the genre during performances of "One World (Not Three)," "Good News" and a spirited cover of Bob Marley's "Jamming" that got just about everyone dancing to the beat.
The Wailing Souls opened with a 40-minute set of Jamaican roots reggae that rarely impressed. With the notable exception of the speedy "Shark Attack," the set simply lacked the magic to touch the audience.