Authentic reggae dance-hall artists becoming U.S. pop stars are as rare as Washington Wizards playoff victories. That's why it's surprising to see two of them, Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder, snagging space in Billboard's current Top 40 singles chart. Since these native Jamaicans have radio-friendly jams, they performed to a thick crowd at WPGC-FM's Spring Jam on Thursday at Nation.
Wonder slid out for a cramped 20-minute set with a pair of plaid-skirted dancers. Through tender vocals, the lanky Wonder proved his placid pipes to be quite genuine -- especially during the hokey and cheerful radio fave "No Letting Go."
While Wonder's set was relaxed, Sean Paul provided pulsating "riddims" to oodles of happy feet. Adoring screams followed nearly every one of his lines, and his patois was so likable that it didn't matter that his chants were indecipherable on songs such as "Haffiget de Gal Ya (Hot Gal Today)." With another overly short set (standard practice for free concerts such as Spring Jam), Sean Paul dashed through a verse or two of his smashes with notable hip-hop influences, including a rollicking ode to sex ("Get Busy") and unwavering praise of wacky weed with the notable refrain "Just gimme the light and pass the dro" ("Gimme the Light"). Though drowned out in thunderous bass lines, Paul's trendy toasting delighted onlookers.
The night also included a sturdy set from comeback crooners Dru Hill, but it was a few impromptu, a cappella minutes from D.C.'s DJ Kool that almost snatched the limelight.
-- Craig Smith