Raiding Bob Marley’s back catalogue without their fallen leader, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby catches the reagge legends at the height of their powers.
It can be difficult to know how to approach a gig like this.
Although we don’t begrudge The Wailers touring without their fallen leader, usually in these situations, you have to use words like “forgiving” and “tolerant”. Thankfully, this isn’t the case tonight.
When the tour was initially announced, we were told they were playing all of Legend, the 1984 greatest hits collection that went on to become the biggest selling reggae album of all time.
It was pretty obvious from the get-go that this wasn’t going to be the case. Although we think each song from the original release was accounted for, they certainly weren’t playing them in order and referring to the shows as such is probably a little bit naughty and unnecessary. Wouldn’t you expect all of those songs to be in the set regardless?
That pedantic niggle aside, they were on top form. In fact, the show worked better not being tied down to Legend. This writer has seen The Wailers before, and this was by far the best performance I have seen from them. Some recent line-up changes have given them a fatter, funkier sound and re-energised them as a unit.
Vocals are now split between long time Wailer Junior Marvin and Josh Barrett depending on the song, and the tag team approach pays off. Marvin’s voice is more gruff and suits the more politically active songs, whereas Barrett has a more soulful voice that suits that side to Marley’s song writing.
It is to both men’s credit that neither tried to recreate Bob Marley. It felt like a celebration of a body of work, and that is how it should be. It felt like one giant Punky Reggae Party, especially when big hitters such as Is This Love or No Woman No Cry were brought out and the room exploded with pure joy and positive vibrations. They rounded off with a curfew-busting Exodus that ensured everybody left with beaming faces.
For most reggae fans, this is the body of work that introduces them to the music of Jamaica. It is easy to grumble about them continuing to tour without their leader, but this music must be played. It is too important to people’s lives to be left gathering dust. We’re lucky that they do it with joy and respect.
Support came from Jeramiah Ferrari and Shanty. The former we have seen before, and despite being solid musically, there is something grating about a band from Manchester singing with a Caribbean accent. There was less of that with Shanty, so we would say we preferred them. But both bands did manage to bring a very British sound out of a Jamaican style. So, kudos to them both.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Warren Millar