Estelle may be a Briton, but she also shares the warm spirit of a loyal American when it comes to supporting our troops. On July 1, when most of the biggest names in rap, hip hop and R&B filled the Shrine Auditorium for the BET Awards, singer/rapper Estelle was getting dressed in a bowling alley on a quiet military base in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn called Fort Hamilton. She was in Los Angeles the night prior, partying with the network’s CEO Debra Lee and doing what she does best…looking fly. However, the next morning she was on a plane on her way to the sole active duty military installation in New York City to perform at a free concert open to the public to celebrate Independence Day. “Yes, I’m supposed to be there, [California] but I want to be here,” she said.
Hosted by Fort Hamilton’s office of Morale, Wellness and Recreation in association with Mission One Voice and the Center for American Military Music Opportunities, the concert started at 6 p.m. with opening acts country music artist Canaan Smith and Brooklyn-bred rock legend Eddie Money. The Sgt. Deon Taylor Ball Fields (named after an NYPD officer and Army National Guardsman killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008) where the concert took place wasn’t crowded as I don’t think these events get much publicity every year, however with over 5,000 civilians, soldiers and their family members living on base, too many non-military related outsiders may have taken away from the intimacy of the event. By 9 p.m. the sun had set, the stage lights glowed in shades of green, blue and purple and Estelle glowed in all black ensemble with fuchsia open toe pumps. She was ready to give all of her to the fans. She performed hits from her 2008 LP “Shine” and “All of Me,” her latest release this year. She even pulled one lucky male out of the audience to give him a teasing lapdance to the song “Come Over.” “No hands!” she warned him.
To close out the show, she performed her big hit single where she salutes the men of red, white and blue, “American Boy.” With an audience mostly full of children of servicemembers, her hundreds of young backup singers hovering the stage helped her along with the song’s lyrics. It was evident this appearance meant a lot to the singer.
“It’s really been incredible. Seeing the young, I mean super young, who are far away from homes and their families, and they really don’t know what they’re walking into. These kids were like my sisters and brothers age,” she empathized. “Had that been me being so far away from my family during Christmas, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
She actually traveled as far as the deployed soldier when she visited Camp Virginia in Kuwait last December to perform for troops spending the holidays away from home. Her native country of the United Kingdom has also seen it’s share of troop casualties in combat over the past decade with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan alone, the death toll has surpassed 400. Estelle is very passionate on the issue and her concern at the show was to focus on the family members who are affected by a loved one away at war and the troops preparing for deployment. One unit left for a one year tour to Afghanistan the next day. “The war’s not over and the world still needs protecting, so for me, I wanted to give them something to look forward to and create a memory for them.” As a soldier celebrating my ninth year in the service this month and a 2X Afghanistan combat veteran, I salute you Estelle.
Another day in Brooklyn…