Review + Photography by John McEvoy

Bob Marley passed away back in 1981, but his legacy and stunningly good musical output is safe in the hands of The Wailers who delighted the crowd at Leeds O2 tonight. Ably supported by Jeramiah Ferrari from Manchester, this was an evening which went down an absolute treat.

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As Saturday is club night at the O2, gigs always start much earlier than usual, and those who missed the support act, Jeramiah Ferrari, should be disappointed. Their mix of reggae, Ska and punk was well received and I have to say it’s been a long time since a support slot has been so well received by a crowd, and it’s only a matter of time before they are discovered by a wider audience. Currently busy touring the north and north west of England and I would urge you to catch their live set. Fronted by the energetic Ryan Barton on vocals, this four piece band were a new band to me and it was well worth getting there early to catch their set. Check out their ‘Sign of The Times’ EP to see what all the fuss should be about.

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Almost 40 years since the passing of Bob Marley, and the demand for his music shows no sign of slowing down if Saturday night in Leeds is anything to go by. Sadly the passing of time has meant that some of the original Wailers are no longer with us, only Donald Kinsey and Tyrone Downie on guitar and keyboards remain from the original band, but this doesn’t detract in any way from the quality and sheer exuberance this band bring to the stage. It falls to Josh David Barrett on vocals who has the nigh on impossible task of replacing the great man. Rather than simply trying to imitate him, he manages the feat of paying respect to Marley, but at the same time puts his own style on proceedings.

A quick look round the audience confirmed that reggae still has the ability to attract people of all ages, and as soon as the band take to the stage and into opening track ‘Irie’ we are all into party mode.

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The backbone of this gig is of course the ‘Legend’ album and as soon as the opening bars of ‘Is this Love’ fires up, the first of several singalongs kick in. This version of the band have been touring heavily it shows that practice makes perfect! It was good to see that they also covered other tracks from the back catalogue and ‘Roots, Rock Reggae’ from 76’s ‘Rastaman Vibration’ was a genuine highlight of the evening for me.

‘I Shot the Sheriff’ a vocally challenging tune proved no problem for Josh Barrett, and was underlined by the familiar thundering bass line and keyboards. ‘No Woman, No Cry’, Marley’s benchmark song, and ‘3 Little Birds/One Love’ quickly followed and sounded just fresh and vibrant as they first did all those years ago.

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‘Lively up yourself’ brought the set to a close before the obligatory encore, and had the entire crowd taking part in one huge skank along!

Due to time constraints the promised four extra tracks during the encore had to be reduced to just ‘Redemption Song’ which of course is no bad thing, and ensured that this crowd wandered off into the night happy and exhausted.

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I have had heard it said that The Wailers are now nothing more than a tribute band, and whilst there were only two original members of the band onstage tonight, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This band has always been a kind of workers co-operative, and I have to say that the current line-up is continuing this tradition and this musical legacy is safe in their hands.

I’m sure Bob Marley would approve…

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Set list:
Irie
Rastaman/Vibration
Is this Love
Roots, Rock Reggae
I Shot The Sheriff
Heathen
Survival
No Woman, No Cry
Johnny Was
3 Little Birds/One Love
Jammin/Get Up
Lively Up Yourself
Encore:
Redemption Song

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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