Impressions: ‘Lily of Da Valley’ Live in Kingston with Jesse Royal

Words by Ronnia Cherry
Photos by Yannick Reid

Reggae’s Palace Pickney Jesse Royal recently blessed the I-niverse with his debut album Lily of da Valley, and he invited Jamaica to join him at Kingston’s Serengeti Theater for a free celebration.

Neither rain nor Kingston traffic could stop the royal court, as his Bebble family, loyal fans and supporters poured in all night. The 600-capacity venue in the heart of the beautiful Hope Botanical Gardens & Zoo remained packed for most of the night as Jesse performed to a full house that included fellow artists and musicians including Sizzla, Popcaan, Aidonia, Protoje, Kelissa, Romain Virgo, No-maddz, Jah9, Dre Island, Runkus, Yaadcore, 5 Star and Vanessa Bongo.

The album-release party felt more while like a family reunion with a bagga smiling, hugging and herb crushing, with drinks and food flowing from The Serengeti Bistro. Official merchandise and physical copies of Lily of Da Valley were also for sale and album posters began filling up the hands of the beautiful tribe who came to show love.

An intimate reasoning with TV/radio presenter Debbie Bissoon kicked things off, with Jesse explaining the concepts behind his songs and previewing tracks ahead of his performance. The album’s lead single, “Always Be Around,” Jesse said, was inspired by the birth of his first child. “It’s the first time… you ever have somebody humble you, just by looking at you?” He expressed to the crowd, still in awe and inspiration by one of his most proudest and precious creations.

Iconic keyboardist Llamar “Riff Raff” Brown, who helped bring Lily to life, briefly joined Jesse on stage to discuss working on the project together. Jesse wrapped up the reasoning by thanking everyone involved in the project, including Easy Star Records, Rif Raff, Kareem “Remus” Burrell, Kurt White and musicians who played on the album: Aston Barrett Jr. (drums), Jason Welsh (bass), Nicolas Groskopf (guitar), vocalists  Tamekia Moncrieffe, Nikki Burt, Jo Mersa Marley, Natty Rico, Patrice and more.

After a brief intermission —and opportunity to get the steamers and chalices ready — Jesse entered the stage with the grace of a lamb and the ferocity of a lion, roaring through an unforgettable set of new and familiar anthems. Kicking off with the rebel souljah war cry “400 Years,” Jesse also performed “Generation,” “Stand Firm,” “Real Love” (with a flawless rendition of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love on the intro), “Roll Me Something,” “Rock It Tonight” and “Life Sweet,” all off the new album. When the first chords of “Modern Day Judas” came on, the crowd went wild with shots licked and cat calls in the air. The band hit them with the instant pull up before finishing with solid performances of “Always Be Around” and “Jah Will See Us Through,” respectively. The show finished as gracefully as it began, with Jesse showing massive love the crowd for coming out. Leaving us all fulfilled, energy way up and ready to add Lily of da Valley to our regular rotations.

Lily of da Valley, which debuted at No. 1 on the reggae charts, is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and now SoundCloud. CD/vinyl copies and official merchandise are avaialble at jesseroyalmusic.com.

And if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, see our original interview with Jesse Royal from 2013 here.