Tanya Stephens, Professor Nuts deliver at Bamboo Splash Lawn’s ‘Acoustic Live’
There is an unspoken protocol to gather at the front of the stage whenever Tanya Stephens comes out, and it was no different when she headlined the second staging of Bamboo Splash Lawn’s ‘Acoustic Live’ series in St Andrew last Thursday.
Adorned in her signature ensemble of black, a splash of denim, aviator sunnies and boots, the singer had a near 90-minute “therapy” session about love, lust and heartbreak, with wry anecdotes and interludes which provoked the male ego (classic Tanya), and got as random as discussions about unshaved armpit hair.
Waistlines wined, choirs sang and phones snapped as Stephens performed classics like Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet and Handle the Ride, before moaning and groaning her way into Boom Wuk. which attracted a “pull up” from MC Marko. Though the 49-year-old said she’s too old for second takes, the encore provided the setting for thought-provoking artiste-to-audience conversations about, well, “ding dongs”. Stephens made it clear she’s an equal opportunity kind of gal, and is in no way discriminating against short willies, positing that mental stimulation is where it’s at.
The St Mary star progressed beyond the sexual joyrides of a relationship to ‘matey’ chronicles and wife woes. Female patrons finger-pointed while belting the lyrics of What’s Your Story? and vocally relished the reduced quality of life of the trifling man in Can’t Breathe. One passionate patron was in total support of taking it to tyre-slashing heights, and Stephens stopped to declare that people should not be influenced to do anything illegal because of her lyrical storylines. Her statement was backgrounded by the band playing After You, and, soon enough, the audience was more interested in the teased song and decided to start singing without her.
Somewhere between interludes about society’s patriarchal “house arrest” and the effects of toxic co-parenting, also came side bars about superficial beauty and her infamous wigs. By this time, Stephens was admittedly hoarse, but the raspy texture added a new dimension to songs like Tek Him Back. Crowd favourites like I Lied, What a Day, These Streets and It’s a Pity permeated the venue, and she culminated with requests from fans, with Still a go Lose noticeably taking the cake.
Considering the disrupted live event scene because of the pandemic, it was just the therapy Stephens needed.
“It was very therapeutic,” she told The Sunday Gleaner. “The people dem did nice, mi nah lie. A really great audience, great venue, great event. Mi really hope it grow from strength to strength.”
Ironically, her actual therapist Patrece Charles was also in attendance.
“She’s the lead therapist in a group of therapists who are actually helping myself and some other sexual violence survivors to start our healing process. Well, I’ve already started mine, but other people are within the group and we’re doing virtual sessions and anybody is welcomed. Men are welcomed, too, because she understands that the experience is not limited to us … . So, if anybody needs this service, it is free of cost, email email@example.com.”
A night of storytellers
Stephens wasn’t the only storyteller that night. Veteran deejay Professor Nuts was also rostered and captivated attendees through brilliant storytelling injected with comedy and bursts of acting.
In what felt like a live master class of toasting on the B-side of a 45 in the dancehall, Nuts finessed several songs on the Answer rhythm, a seemingly good move for allowing patrons to appreciate the genius of his catalogue, like the calamity of falling for the wife of Big John and the benefits of choosing to ‘Tan So Back’ instead of violence. Between the Cassanova tales and oral sex topics, the Inna Di Bus deejay even found himself laughing at his own material with the audience, which heightened during his animated performance of Be Careful. The crowd gave him a round of applause for his entertaining set, but didn’t let him leave the stage without performing his Bad Boy Jimmy hit.
Nuts said it was one of few local performances he’s done since the pandemic.
“We are all human beings and, if you know how to regulate your performance for the crowd to accept you, they will always be into you, because you don’t throw yourself at them, you bring them to you,” Nuts told The Sunday Gleaner. “I appreciate how they appreciate me tonight and I love it. It’s just different here, and the environment, wow, everybody just hold dem tile and dem just stapled and enjoying themselves.”
Patron Michelle Morgan said, “I enjoyed the night. I came out for Tanya as I’ve always wanted to see her live, and Professor Nuts was a plus. I’m 47 and I’ve been singing and listening to both all this time.”
Tameka Clarke also fancied the event.
“It was a very good performance from both of them. I enjoyed myself.”
The evening also saw performances from the I Lite Band and DJ Banka on the ones and twos.