Review of their gig in the Ambassador, Dublin, 18 November 2002
Invitation only gigs can often be fairly ropey affairs in many respects. The audience that gets invitations aren't necessarily as up for it as a normal audience would be. They might not know the songs, might not be fans of the genre, and are often at the venue for the free beer rather than anything else.
However, Wyclef Jean's recent Witnness gig in the Ambassador in Dublin seemed to buck that trend to a certain extent. Witnness have built up a strong brand identity over the last few years, especially in the context of the now-annual two day festival that seems to attract some of the bigger names in the music world, and as such, their name has a bit more clout when it comes to these secret gigs (as testified by their especially seeing as the last secret gig was theFoo Fighters prior to the last Witnness festival.
Walking into the venue to the sounds of Cork DJ, Stevie G, there was already a sizeable crowd in place, availing of their free drink vouchers and enjoying the R'n'B being played. Stevie did an admirable job of warming the crowd up, but it was Dublin's great white hip hop hopes, Creative Controle who really got things going.
Messiah J did his bit at the launch of Tom Dunne's best of Irish, Volume 2 in HMV, and did more than enough to get the crowd going on a wet night on Grafton St. A bigger stage, a bigger audience and a bigger night seemed to fire J and his cohort The Expert onto greater things. Ably assisted by DJ Flip and Paul Dunne on the bass, Creative Controle played a blinder, finishing with their single 'Bloodrush' that had the crowd wanting more. Watch out for their forthcoming gigs.
Then it was time for the former Fugees' man to take the stage. The band struck up 'No Woman, No Cry', and the crowd went mad. Of course, that was nothing compared to how things went off when the opening bars of 'Jump Around' came on. Indeed, one of the best things about the night was one of the things that Wyclef's fans would have liked least about it. Very little of Wyclef's original material was actually played. We heard 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', a rendition of 'With or Without You' (joined by the Edge for fifteen or so minutes - quite a moment to behold, although the TV broadcast of the gig didn't quite do it justice).
At one stage, Wyclef ended up on the balcony, praising his new favourite drink (which appropriately enough was Guinness...). We had dancers from New York (with a personal dance performed for a competition winner) and even a few of ye olde Fugee's tunes.
All in all, it was a great night out. Maybe there could have been fewer backing tracks, and maybe Wyclef fans will be a bit miffed that they didn't get as many of his songs as they might have hoped for, but it was just pure entertainment provided by a producer, songwriter etc etc who seems to be on top of his game.