There are certain staples when it comes to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and Machel Monday is certainly one of them. He is, of course, the Soca GOAT (Greatest of All Time), as evidenced by the similarly-titled 2019 album. But unlike other concerts that showcase an opening act, guest performers, and then end with the main show, Machel Monday does it differently. The soca star graced the stage for the entire night, despite pouring rains, with almost eight hours of non-stop performances, including guest artistes from all over the world.
Much like the lyrics of his road-march contender ‘Release’, Montano took “soca to the universe”, featuring both up-and-coming and well-known artistes from all over the Caribbean. Welcoming almost every artiste he’s collaborated with over the years, this year’s set really showcased the evolution of the Monk, one of Montano’s stage names.
What was once a pre-Carnival concert, and a personal showcase of Machel’s greatest hits, has now become the music festival for the region. Think Coachella of the Caribbean, and Machel is not only the headliner, but the opening act and main stage performances. And the Coachella comparison has never been more fitting, especially as he welcomed long-time friend and Soca Queen, Calypso Rose, onto the stage. After the two performed some of their collaborative efforts from over the years, including this year’s ‘Young Boy’, Rose announced she’d be taking the stage at the legendary California music festival—making her the oldest performer at 78—and that she’d be bringing Montano with her.
We know by now how Rose’s Coachella stint went, winning hearts all over the globe with her dance moves, her feminist mentality and even her little stumble on stage while taking a wine on a ‘young boy’, all while her dear friend Montano shared the stage and limelight with her. But the original announcement that two of our very own soca legends would be performing at such a high-profile festival drove screams and cheers throughout the packed stadium.
Beyond exciting international announcements, Montano kept surprising the crowd. Whether it was bringing his own daughter Melanie Montano, a professional dancer who once danced backup for stars like Rihanna and Beyoncé, to the stage for a dance solo; introducing local contortionist Candice, who went viral on social media for her ability to roll herself down a street (and earning a “Candiceeeee” response when she did the same on stage) or bringing out the hottest Caribbean performers like Nessa Preppy and Hood Celebrity, Machel knows how to keep the crowd entertained.
Of course, the show ended with a bang—with American performer Ashanti, with whom Machel collaborated on ‘The Road’, joining him onstage in a BLISS Carnival costume, singing and dancing like it was Carnival Monday itself.
At close to 4:00 a.m., when the crowds had dwindled, the drinks had been consumed, every person from general to backstage had been soaked, and the voices had been all but lost to screams and cheers, the curtains closed on another Machel Monday, arguably one of the best to date. But we’re not concerned as to how Montano will top it next year. He always does somehow. After all, he is the Greatest of All Time.