Shaggy's brand of reggae may never win awards for originality or depth, but he's got two huge pop hits in "Oh, Carolina" and "Boombastic" under his belt. The Jamaican-born, New York-based dancehall deejay's 90-minute set at the Palace on Thursday was a canny synthesis of reggae's past glories.
Shaggy's deep voice blended Shabba Ranks with the comic flair of Eek-a-Mouse, and he intuitively knew how far to play the dancehall deejay sex stud without becoming offensively macho. Vocalist-deejay Rayvon was particularly impressive singing in a Maxi Priest/Wayne Wonder vein and the pair's sheer likability even made the standard audience-participation routines tolerable.
There was a decidedly retro side to the performance but again, Shaggy's instincts were right on the money. Rayvon saluted the spiritual side of reggae with the Melodians' glorious "Rivers of Babylon" and Shaggy paid respect to the roots legacy by bringing out Bob Marley & the Wailers' vocal mentor Joe Higgs for a stirring version of "Get Up Stand Up."
"Boombastic" even came with a twist, courtesy of an arrangement with enough hints of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" to transform the mood of the song. There were occasional lapses in pacing--notably the dreaded "Day-O" for a closer--but Shaggy's set delivered on a pure entertainment level even if it failed to break new ground musically.