BWW Review: THE WAILERS at Sony Hall
A cool Jamaican breeze cut through the relentless heat of a balmy NYC night at Sony Hall, a newly transformed venue by Blue Note and Sony that fuses cutting-edge audiovisual wizardry and the essence of 1940's glittering Theater District revues in the heart of Times Square - The Wailers were in town!
The Wailers - Keeping the Music Alive, which features the legendary band that backed Bob Marley and put reggae music on the map, is now on an extensive worldwide tour spreading love and good vibes from Japan to Europe and Australia to America at a time of great need for such soul-satisfying sounds.
It also serves as a timely tribute to celebrate the use of marijuana in NYC being at least partially decriminalized, for Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on the same day that smoking pot in public would be a ticketed offense rather than an arrest-able one, and even perhaps, one day in the not too far future, our fair city could join others in legalization since the NY state health commissioner recommended it on Monday. But the sensations felt in Sony Hall were of utter peace and positivity, aided by substances (fully legal or otherwise) or not.
The evening began with some female empowerment in the form of Khalilah Rose. Clad in a ocean blue headscarf and dress the color of the flower that shares her surname which was custom made by Konjo Crochet, she got the energy flowing like Gosling's rum with her rich, smooth vocals and the thick sonic waves of bass and brass as the crowd poured in. The song about the dangers of processed food ("white flour takes away your power") and praise for "these ancient herbs" were particularly charming. Then DJ JAH Culture stepped in to keep the vibe pulsing between sets as the jam-packed house awaited the main event.
Finally, The Wailers, first and second generations (original members and their own blood relatives who have embraced their musical heritage) of the men who created the iconic songs with and played alongside the legendary Bob Marley, took the stage.
What followed was over two hours of pure positive vibes and an absolute outpouring of love and generosity in the form of the most beloved Bob Marley & the Wailers songs and a few funky, fresh new tunes, showing that any generation or incarnation of The Wailers remains as vibrant, relevant and revolutionary as the original assembly.
From 1973 to 1980, Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded, toured, and performed before countless millions worldwide. Since Marley's untimely passing in 1981, Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Junior Marvin have carried on the mission to "keep the Wailers together," just as Bob requested, affirming: "By doing that, you keep me alive through the music." The Wailers continue to make musical history.
The current line-up has been assembled by famed bassist and founder Aston "Family Man" Barrett (a true "family man" indeed, as he's the one most intent on cultivating the next generation), and joined in solidarity with the original Wailers' guitarists Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey, complemented by a solid rhythm section consisting of Owen Reid on bass and, in tribute to the late co-founder and drummer Carlton "Carly" Barrett, the Wailers present Aston Barrett, Jr., who now leads the band, on drums. It's startling how the young powerhouse delivers with his uncle's inspiring landmark style. Lead singer Joshua David Barrett, hailing from Brooklyn, is a modern Rastaman by lifestyle and culture. Josh delivers Bob's powerful message of Jah love and unity through his performance and interaction with the audience.
Also gracing the stage are singers Shema McGregor, daughter of I Three Judy Mowatt, and Anne-Marie Thompson, an experienced gospel singer and Andres Lopez on keyboards. Lennie Chen, kin to bassist Phil Chen of Rod Stewart fame, acts as the "vibe man" who encouraged this current incarnation to keep spreading the music to the millions so moved by it.
Classic songs like "I Shot the Sheriff" and "Get Up, Stand Up" take on an even more powerful and poignant meaning and message in today's tempestuous climate, and the band made note of that, particularly in regards to the current border crisis tearing families apart.
When they played "Three Little Birds," as one of the night's five or more encores and sang "Don't worry about a thing, 'cuz every little thing is gonna be alright," one could feel that everyone in the sultry, packed room, even if only for that moment, truly believed that was so. This is the lasting impact of The Wailers mission and purpose - past, present and future.
For more information and tour dates: www.thewailers.net