Maxi Priest has astutely forged reggae into an easily digestible sound by infusing it with pop and funk stylings. Judging from the genre-shattering sales of his latest album, his reggae-pop-funk fusion has considerable appeal.
From the instrumental overture that preceded his entrance, to the use of flying dreadlocks as an effective stage prop, Priest and his band seemed similarly well packaged Wednesday night at Lisner Auditorium. Likewise, most of his material consisted of numbers that were as well crafted as they were appealing: "Temptress" and other upbeat, reggae-pulsed pop shared the bubble-gum hooks that have made UB40 the cream of the crossovers, and "Close to You" was winsome post-Soul II Soul hip-funk.
At times, it seemed Priest tried too hard to please. The ballad "Space in My Heart" might have come from the soft underbelly of any number of metal bands. And because it was played too fast, "Marcus," one of the strongest numbers Priest has ever recorded, lost some of its passion. Still, Priest confirmed that he's a consummate showman. He effectively varied styles and moods (though his chipper side dominated); he enlivened "Wild World" by winding his hips to sax riffs; and he thrilled the crowd with a dynamite sweet 'n' ruff dance hall number he shared with the scene-stealing Tony Kelly.