The WailersO2 Academy 7/3/18
It’s almost as if they know how vital their messages are at present. We have a world that seems like it’s stuck on a firm downwards trajectory and people up-top who only seem to be adding gallons more precious fossil fuels to the fire. Now, more than ever, a beacon of hope is what we need. A reminder that we still have some semblance of power and that we can affect change.
And sure enough, the proverbial call to arms is being answered for the second time in as many years tonight in our city. The Academy is packed as devoted followers young and old filter through into any space they can. There was a time when most of these people could have scarcely imagined that a tour of this kind would ever happen. A mix of elation, anticipation and reverence sweeps through the room as people wait patiently for the band to arrive. Again, it’s surprising that an act of this stature is playing in such a small room. Legacy alone could fill an arena with adoring fans. The humble small-venue tour reflects the fact that these artists are still going for all the right reasons.
Finally, after a slight technical glitch during the set-up, THE WAILERS arrive complete with original members and additional members from the Wailers’ family tree. Indeed, Marley’s replacement is the cousin of the legendary Wailers’ bassist Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, Joshua Barrett. We also have legendary original members Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey on guitar with Tyrone Downie on keys and organs. With Familyman’s son, Aston Barrett Jr., joining the band on drums, it’s clear that the line-up is as close as it could be to the familial vibe of the original incarnation.
There is a heavy groove that carries this performance and somewhat betrays the skill level of the players. It’s undeniable that this troupe are some of the best at what they do, with soulful guitar and key solos throughout. Yet somehow, they make their work look, and sound, as fluent and inevitable as running water.
In remembrance of their Legend collection they play a whole set which features almost every track on the record, plus a few extras. Classics such as Three Little Birds, No Woman, No Cry, Buffalo Soldier and I Shot The Sheriff come through thick and fast, prompting a strong chorus from the crowd, while tracks Roots Rock Reggae, Exodus and others have the entire room nodding their heads in unison.
Joshua Barrett proves himself more than worthy of Marley’s mantle as his voice soars through tracks such as Is This Love and One Love, while Aston Barrett Jr. adds a wealth of texture and hypnotic groove to the proceedings which enriches the sound as a whole. This is truly a family affair.
It’s fair to say that The Wailers have done their job. As they leave the stage it has to be said the world seems like a happier place for those in attendance. The music made by this band has inspired and empowered the entire globe for generations and, at present, their power is in need. This show has been one to top up our reserves of hope until – if we’re lucky – around this time next year.