Words by Jesse Serwer:::Photo and Videos by Kevin Ornelas—
Mr. Vegas gets props (although not as much as he should) for being a great dancehall hitmaker but a lot of people don’t realize just how awesome and unique of a singer he is. As Vegas told us in our recent interview, his heroes are Barrington Levy, Alton Ellis and Tenor Saw, Jamaican tenors with unmistakeable vocal character. On the upcoming Sweet Jamaica LP (out Feb. 21), he makes a damn good case for being classified in the same league as them, with vintage-style originals and spot-on recreations of classics like Ellis’ “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and Hopeton Lewis’ “Take it Easy.”
Vegas really got to flex his singing chops with his unplugged performance at New York’s Miss Lily’s Variety on Thursday night, offering the audience an intimate preview of Sweet Jamaica (with some help from Tony Bone on acoustic guitar, his lovely backup singers, and host Rob Kenner), two months after Jimmy Cliff inaugurated the same space with a chilling acoustic performance of his own. Although the evening was rife with highlights, particularly stirring was his rendition of “Sweet and Dandy,” by another great Jamaican tenor, Toots Hibbert (and his Maytals). Watch below, and tell us there’s another singer of his generation who’s doing it quite like this. And stay tuned for more footage from this performance, coming right up.