What is a star? Literally, a luminous body held together by self-gravity. On this evening, it was the star of Ziggy Marley, a world-beat reggae pop icon holding together a magical occasion, illuminating both his history and lighting the stage for the elder statements of original roots reggae music, The Wailing Souls.
Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica – the same Trenchtown neighborhood that gave rise to Bob Marley and the golden age of reggae music – the long-standing, continuous vocalists who lead Wailing Soul’s, Winston “Pipe” Matthews and Lloyd “Bread” McDonald performed in full glory, with an all-star band destined to give everybody a profound sense of sacramental presence.
On that note, early up in their set was the song “Ishen Tree,” followed by other stand-out favorites, including “Fire House Rock” and “Down on the Rocks.” As direct support, it was an honor to be blessed by the music of The Wailing Souls.
As was the musical cornerstone placed 60 years ago, a concert vibe was set for what would follow. Eight-time Grammy Award winner, Ziggy Marley not only learned drums and guitar from his father Bob Marley, but Ziggy also performed and recorded with Bob. The eldest child of Bob and Rita Marley and born in Kingston (also from Trenchtown), Ziggy has lived and breathed original roots reggae since his earliest years. As this performance highlighted, he continues that drive, as offering a gift, a passion and a joy for performance that emanated from his energetic showmanship.
Ziggy’s opening song, “Rebellion Rises,” immediately addressed our pre- and post-pandemic, societal struggles that we continue to face – a systematic atmosphere of violence and hate – with his proposed solution being “an age of awareness” and “a call upon all people” to standing together.
Of course, in keeping with the spirit of reggae, Ziggy never shied from politics, but joy and appreciation for love would also dominate his choice of words. His newer song, “I Am the Lucky,” uplifted the crowd, providing the audience with that natural need to laugh and smile. This was followed by “Wild and Free,” a nod to independent, small farmers, whereby Ziggy sang, “I see hemp fields forever growing wild and free. I see marijuana trees blowing in the breeze.”
The show featured intimate acoustic moments and energetic dancing flair from Ziggy and his backup singers. It also featured every recognizable Ziggy hit that has landed over the past decades. “Love Is My Religion,” “Dragon Fly,” “Look Who’s Dancin,’” and “Tomorrow People;” the last two songs originally from Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers were highlighted numbers, each deeply delivered.
Of special note, “Tomorrow People,” kicked off his four-song encore with the final song of the evening, Bob Marley’s “Jammin.’” Respectfully, the show featured three Bob Marley numbers total, with “Is This Love” and “Get Up Stand Up” also part of the evening. The blending of select Bob Marley tunes with The Melody Makers music satisfied a concertgoer’s need to hear it all, fulfilling that craving for whenever something like a “best of” show comes to town. Everything about Ziggy’s set was poignant. He delivered his message. He performed all his hits.
While Ziggy is known for a series of children’s books, not much has been written on Ziggy himself. Instead, Ziggy continues to be best experienced through his music, on record or live in concert. Of course, onstage he furthered the legacy of his father’s music. But, as Ziggy, he by far shared his own collection of loved songs. Ziggy lit the stage as a living legend of that voice. Ziggy Marley remained that star – that luminous body holding us together on this particular night.
This Pacific Amphitheatre show was uniquely memorable, and exiting the venue, it placed a star more deeply reflected in everyone’s eye.