Bob Marley 7 5 concert a mellow mood
It was a whole mood inside 56 Hope Road on Thursday. The occasion was the celebration of reggae legend Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, and his widow, Rita, was out to share in the adulation by family, fans and friends. Every big-up sent out to Bob was echoed to Rita, the mystic Marley matriarch, who was sitting somewhere up there, totally outside of the glare of the spotlight.
Although retired from public life owing to health reasons, the former I-Three member and solo artiste still made her desires known, and she also showed her spunk. Songwriter and musician, Grub Cooper, was the conduit through which Rita delivered the controversial weed tune, One Draw, a song which he wrote for her nearly 40 years ago. Not surprisingly, the shoulder-rubbing crowd inside the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road in St Andrew showed their appreciation by taking, not one, but several draws.
And while the free concert delivered the expected – a crowd tighter than a vice grip, a bountiful gathering of Rastafarians, more weed than could be consumed by the Jamaican population in one night and musical tributes aplenty – there was something special about the 75th celebration. Perhaps it was due in part to the fact that for the first time in recent history, four of the Marley brothers were in the house on their father’s birthday, three of whom performed live for fans. Jr Gong was given the task to lead the closing segment of the concert and after doing Nail Pon Cross and a few other songs, he called up his older brothers to hold a musical reasoning with the crowd. All three – Damian, Julian and Ky-mani – did solos and collabs which excited the crowd, but superseding their performance of songs from their own and their father’s catalogues was the strong bond among these sons of Bob, who were later joined by their brother, Rohan.
Ky-mani told The Gleaner that the closeness that was portrayed on stage is the real deal. “My brothers and I didn’t even do a rehearsal. Junior Gong called us up, gave us the mic, we came in on cue and everything just flowed naturally,” he said.
In separate interviews, both he and Julian used the word “overwhelming” to describe their feelings about the celebration which unfolded at the museum.
The young Gong also called up a slew of other artistes, and together they ‘tun ova’ the venue, with cheers from an excited crowd that reached a crescendo. It wasn’t written that Capleton would perform, but his alter ego King Shango did, and he introduced an energy that took things to a higher level. In a fast-paced segment, Capleton Slew Dem and also reeled off some lyrics ‘bunning out’ every corruption; Popcaan shouted out the real thugs; Kabaka Pyramid gave Kontraband and Iba Mahr and I-Wata flowed in the mix. Flag bearers from Capleton’s David House and the Marleys added to the colour and intensity of the celebration.
Earlier, Nadine Sutherland had paid tribute to Marley, who she met as an innocent 12-year-old, recording her first tune. In a performance that earned her an encore, Nadine confessed that she sometimes wondered if Bob would be pleased with her when she “bruk out” on stage. She joined Reggae Queen Marcia Griffiths, one-third of the I-Three, for the classic Marley tribute, He’s A Legend. I Shall Sing, Fire Burning and Redemption Song were all part of Marcia’s song list and she closed with a shoutout to her fellow I-Three member, Rita Marley.
Richie Spice defined the mood. Vibrantly alert and sounding exactly like his recordings, he continued the big chune segment with hits such as Grooving My Girl, Earth a Run Red and Righteous Youths, and called up his brother Snatcha Lion, but playfully sent him off the stage before he could get a bigger piece of the ‘forward’. Mortimer showed his mettle on a big stage, and Toots and the Maytals was mellow.
Perennial Marley concert favourite, percussionist Bongo Herman, spoke about his friendship with Bob, entertained with song and drum, and unloaded his bag of ‘instruments’, which included his treasured ‘chimmey’. Jesse Royal turned in a great performance and gave Lioness Order Kelissa a call-up. Shereita, a backing vocalist for the Marleys, who recently released her own EP, basked in the spotlight as she stunned the crowd with her big vocals.
The curtain came down on Bob’s 75th with his sons singing Could You Be Loved. Jr Gong told The Gleaner post-performance that it was “great to see (his) father being celebrated in this way”.