THE 10,000 patrons who filled the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, in Downtown Miami on Sunday, witnessed a sterling performance by embattled Reggae icon Buju Banton.
Buju was granted permission by a US Federal Court to perform at the concert in a bid to raise funds to cover his legal fees for his upcoming second trial for drug and firearm charges next month and the dreadlocked star performed as if his freedom depended on it.
From the moment the patrons heard the first strains of his opening salvo, pandemonium broke out in the Miami venue.
Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and dark 'gentleman' shoes, the dreadlocked artiste pulled out all the stops, delivering a two-hour set that will leave the patrons who were lucky enough to witness it first hand, talking for a long time to come.
Opening with his hit Destiny, Buju seemed to be in a trance and he went on to mesmerise the adoring audience with hits from the past as well as songs from his latest album, Before The Dawn.
The singer was escorted inside the venue by federal agents who stood vigil around the backstage area and made sure that no unauthorised contact was made with the singer. He has been under house arrest since December when he was granted bail in a Tampa court.
But his 11-month incarceration and recent restrictions seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind as he gave the audience value for their money. Tickets were sold for US$53 prepaid and US$63 at the box office for general admission and US$100 prepaid and US$140 at the gate for VIP admission.
The concert was dubbed Before the Dawn Buju Banton and Friends, and his friends in the music industry were on hand to offer moral and musical support.
The artiste did combinations with Reggae diva Marcia Griffiths, Wayne Wonder and Steve McKnight but it was the entry of Stephen Marley, who had put up his Florida home as collateral for Banton to qualify for bail and his Marley sibling Junior Gong that brought out more cheers of approval.
A most touching moment was when he was joined by Gramps Morgan and the two performed their hit rendition of Psalms 23. The spirituality of the moment seemed to grip several members of the audience who broke out in tears as the two brothers in music chanted in their own inimitable style.
Reggae crooner Beres Hammond was absent but Banton never missed the opportunity to pay homage to a man he described as one of his mentors.
Banton's knock out punch was when he called his attorney David Oscar Markus on stage and thanked him for his efforts in defending him against his accusers.
"Don't watch nothing say him white. Him blacker than me and you," Banton said before hugging his lawyer and exiting the stage after his non-stop 120-minute performance.
A creditable offering came from veteran singer Freddy McGregor, whose Freedom resonated with the audience.
"Buju asked me to sing this one," McGregor quipped.
Wayne Wonder was also in the pink of form and Everton Blender was sublime with Ghetto People Song and Lift up Your Head.
The crowd also went wild for Shaggy and his sidekick Rayvon who had the ladies salivating. Sean Paul was joined on stage by Spragga Benz who reminded the audience that Rasta Run the World.
Nadine Sutherland and Tarrus Riley were not going to be left out and they too gave creditable stints to add to the momentous evening.
Rappers DJ Khaleed and Busta Rhymes flew on stage and upped the ante with their high- energy stint.
The proceedings were kicked off with a 90-minute chanting session from Ras Michael and the Nyahbingi Drummers who pronounced their desire to leave 'Mystery Babylon'.
The group of Rastafari elders was followed by Richie Loop who made sure nothing fell out of his 'cupp'.
All told the evening was a pleasurable one which went through without any untoward incident.
However the media representatives who covered the event were more than peeved when they were informed that they would be prohibited to photograph or film footage of more than the first song of each artiste's performance.
Photographing or filming Banton's performance was also strictly prohibited. The media was warned that failure to abide by the rule would result in them being thrown out of the venue.
The film crews and photographers were herded into a footage pit and quickly ushered out by stern faced security staff at the start of each performance.
The bitter taste in their mouths became less tolerable when members of the audience were seen capturing uninterrupted footage of the event with cellular phones and mini camcorders.
"This is madness, we have footage and clips of all the billed artistes so what's the point? They should have informed us of this policy when we were seeking accreditation," one member of a film crew from the Netherlands said.