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In concert: Gyptian at Crossroads

gyptianGyptian performed one of the biggest hits of the summer in the wee hours of Thursday morning -- but summer felt far away. (All photos by Evy Mages/FTWP)

By Chris Richards

Spittle was leaking from the skies. The wind was damp. The queue zig-zagged around puddles and across the parking lot. Summertime couldn’t have felt further away.

But hundreds of umbrella-hoisting fans braved the bluster outside the Crossroads in Bladensburg Wednesday night, lining-up to revisit the sweltering glories of July via the biggest reggae hit of the summer: “Hold Yuh” by Gyptian.

Just a few months ago, it seemed to stream out every open car window in the city — a pliant reggae tune that ripens into something anthemic using just a few spare ingredients: That twinkling piano line, those sputtering bass notes, an erratic snare drum and the pining patois of Gyptian, a 26-year-old native of St. Andrew, Jamaica now riding a white-hot summer into the soggy chills of fall. In addition to most of the fans lined up outside the Crossroads, the crossover success of “Hold Yuh” has also earned Gyptian an opening slot on Mary J. Blige’s upcoming European tour.

But indoors, Gyptian’s performance was as aggravating as the weather outside. He took the stage shortly after 1 a.m. and lingered for a meager 25 minutes, delivering his lovelorn songs in truncated forms that didn’t give the singer or his smitten fans much of a opportunity to get comfortable.

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And for a crooning lothario like Gyptian, comfort is key. The lilting beat of “Beautiful Lady,” — a slow-motion love song about a fast-forward seduction — gave him this space for his dreamy falsetto to luxuriate, but he inexplicably ended the song at the halfway mark. Talk about rushing it.

Perhaps to compensate, he elicited screams from the crowd by rolling his tongue between songs, purring like a lion then revving like a Ducati. He kept the playfulness going as his DJ cued up each track, cooing non-verbal ooh-ooh-oohs and nah-nah-nahs to fans’ delight. But his hype-man was quick to kill the mood, barking, “LADIES, PUT YOUR HANDS UP FOR GYPTIAN!” It even soured the sweet intro of “Nah Let Go,” one of the most effective Valentines in Gyptian’s collection.

The show wasn’t all lovey-dovey. Turning to Jamaican poverty, “Serious Times,” his politically charged 2005 single, was clear-eyed and compelling, its shambolic bongos transposed into a taut, digital thump. “These are serious times,” he sang. “All I can see round us is violence and crime.”

The track trafficked in the same strange of minimalism of “Hold Yuh,” which, of course, closed the show. But where every other song in Gyptian’s set was abruptly clipped, “Hold Yuh” warranted and received an extension. After the DJ dropped a recording of rapper Nicki Minaj’s guest verse from the remix into the proceedings, Gyptian took the chorus for one more victory lap, “Put m’arms right around yuh!” He waved goodnight and hustled off stage.

Just like summer, it was over way too soon.

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By Chris Richards  | October 7, 2010; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Gyptian  
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