Who can forget the summer of 2002? Yes, it was the summer that launched dancehall music as a mainstream and commercially successful cross-over prospect, providing seasoned underground artists proper, and long overdue, respect. It was both a blessing and a curse, in the minds of many. Bridge and tunnel weekender car audio systems blared the endlessly repeating VP Records Reggae Gold 2002 compiled singles, Shizzle My Nizzle, and Gimmie the Light, back to back, through the streets of San Francisco, over and over and again.
Since then, fueled by mainstream media attention, ranging from a November 2003 Billboard cover story, to MTV and BET video airplay, the Energy God–Elephant Man–has come a long way, launching his album, Good to Go, on Atlantic records, last December.
The last time Elephant man played in San Francisco was the comfortable Sunday evening of November 23, 2003, at the very unlikely venue of the basement parish hall of St. Marys Cathedral.
The Sabbath performance did not seem to meet the expectations of the often unforgiving SF Bay audience. As the show wore on to the 2 AM, even the most dedicated of red-eyed dancehall fans left the parish hall for, what seemed, other reasons than getting up for work the next morning. His very rehearsed rendition of We Are the World fell upon deaf ears, perhaps a symptom of an endorsement of suspending judgment on Michael Jackson’s alleged misdeeds.
Perhaps it was Elephant Man’s insensitivity to the geographic rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles; by the end of the show, his shouts to LA were taken by the crowd as total disrespect.
Slick, stylish and confident on stage and during the backstage press conference, E-Man embraced the local media and fans with open arms, relatively oblivious to the apathetic response of the audience to even the notion of an encore.
The distracting whine of feedback, as well as having to stop the show to instruct the sound engineer, can hardly be considered the fault of the Energy God.
His vocal skills were in top form, and the Scare Dem Crew brought much needed artistic diplomacy to the stage to the unforgiving anti-Roman and homophobic lyrics of Elephant man (who was performing in a Cathedral, after all).
Not that the crowd was not adequately warmed up for the Energy God. In fact, the highlight of the night, judging from the crowds response, was not Elephant Man, but the blazing high grade DJ sounds of the TNT Sound System. The superb selections and toasting by Leo & Doogie of TNT Sound System, and rewinding of Sizzlas Just One of Those Days, rocked the crowd into a fury. Complex also provided guidance to the effect.
Of course, his repeated shouts to LA and the Big Apple in the heart of Jah-Jah City will be remembered. Shouts to LA will never be a way of winning over the strong hearts of proud Giants and As fans; the Energy God faces a new challenge in the Bay this month.
It is an open question as to whether Elephant Man will sell out San Francisco this month, but judging from his perseverance to follow in the footsteps of Sean Paul to bring dancehall to the mainstream, he will return for a second round, undoubtedly, hard and rough, without any apologies to his critics.
Elephant Man will perform at the Warfield on Saturday, February 21, 2004, at the Annual Bob Marley Day festival in San Francisco. For more information, visit: http:/ / www.bobmarleydayfestival.com/lineup_artistinfo_SF.html.