When Sean Paul strides out onto the stage on Friday, 5 November he won’t have played many more spectacular locations.
The concert is held right on the world-famous white sands of Seven Mile Beach, a fitting arena for a world superstar. He’ll be taking the 2,500 crowd on a journey through the greatest riddims of a dastardly-brilliant dancehall career, all to the backdrop of the Royal Palms / Reef bar and grill, hosts of a gig that’s looking likely to put Cayman right back on the map as a centre for live music.
“Sean Paul drew a huge crowd last time he was here, at the Digicel opening in town. He’s a good draw, a great artist, a lot of fun and appeals to everyone from young people to a more mature audience,” says Don Loyd of the venue. In the past, the Palms has put on concerts involving the likes of Byron Lee, using the car park as a performance area rather than the beach as it is this time around.
The Palms itself has undergone something of a reinvention this summer, with the main addition being a brand-new pool bar between the Reef grill building on the beach and the Royal Palms souvenir store, once a restaurant and now new home to Jacques Scott and Red Sail Sports. There are also exclusive cabanas around the pool deck.
At the concert there will be significant security, with metal detectors and 30 to 40 security staff, plus VIP areas and a designated area for kids; the show is going to be a well-organised and safe event, says Loyd, who observes that though economically times are difficult all things must pass.
“It’s hard times; there’s not a lot of money around and there’s much fewer people than would attend these concerts in the past – a lot of people have left the island. “It’s definitely a positive thing. Most people are hunkering down now and we just took a different approach that now is a good time to be doing something different. It’s not going to be like this forever, things will eventually turn around. It’s good to try and be ahead of the curve rather than catching up,” he continues.
The restaurant and bar scene is more competitive than ever before, declares the long-time restauranteur, who notes that it seems like restaurants are opening daily on the island.
“There’s also a lot of clubs opening; I don’t remember it being this competitive in terms of the number of restaurants for the number of people here. It seems like if one closes somebody else has a dream and they move into the space. We don’t have as many overnight stayers, so you have to do your job better than anyone else,” adds Loyd.
The concert itself features local acts including KK Alese, DJ Alic, DJ Docta and Love Culture, lighting up the beach with Caymanian talent alongside that of the Jamaican megastar. It’s already being billed as the party of the year and since the demise of Jazz Fest will be a timely reminder that Cayman is capable of attracting top talent to its shores.
Sean Paul comes to Cayman on the back of another successful album, 2009’s Imperial Blaze, for which he received a Grammy nomination. It’s a gong he won, of course, in 2005, with the career-defining second LP, Dutty Rock. That album spawned the Billboard number one hit, Temperature, building on Sean Paul’s 2002 debut LP, Stage One, which brought the reggae and dancehall artist to the attention of the world.
Latterly, the Jamaican legend has been part of the Rise Again single, also featuring the likes of Shaggy and Sean Kingston. It was a gathering of Caribbean talent on a record that raised money for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He also donated a significant amount of his own money to victims of Hurricane Ivan, the cash going to an assortment of charities in his home country.
“I really feel proud that I am able to do this. It’s Jamaican people who have put me on the map and now it’s good to come full circle and be able to give back,” he told journalists.
Sean Paul is an artist at the top of his form who is guaranteed to ensure a sell-out crowd at an unusual, but beautiful, beach concert. Without the collaboration of sponsors and local residents alike, though, it couldn’t have happened, concludes Lloyd, who said that the Royal Palms intends to put on ‘maybe one big concert a year.’
“The neighbours are being very helpful; Seagull, Island Pines and Cayman Reef Resort have been very cool.
“It’s just a shame it wasn’t a full moon too, that would have been nuts,”smiles the restaurateur.