The Wailers, Solko at The Nick Rayns LCR, UEA Norwich 22 November 2015
I never saw Bob Marley – one of my absolute musical heroes and a total inspiration – I hold his words and music very dear so was excited to get my first opportunity of hearing the Wailers live despite the line-up only featuring one Wailer who played with Marley. That being Aston “Family Man” Barrett who was celebrating his 69th birthday on this Norwich date.
Support for this, and indeed the Cambridge date, was our own Solko who did us proud. Sounding big and full on the large stage which suited their dubby sound well. It was pleasing to see them play in front of this large and appreciative crowd, luckily the place was already pretty full for this early start and I saw a couple of friends later who remarked how much they enjoyed them. It was an early start on this Sunday evening, the band literally walking onstage moments after I arrived at the LCR at 7:35pm and they played for about 40 minutes or so which seemed to pass by in moments.
The Wailers came onstage about 8:40pm, the band playing an instrumental intro before being joined by singers Dwayne Anglin and Cegee Victory (the band also featuring, Audley Chisholm on lead guitar, Melvin Glover rhythm guitar, and Aston Barrett Jr. on drums) and launching into Is This Love, the first track from Bob Marley and The Wailers’ posthumous album Legend which The Wailers would play in its entirety and in order.
It might at first seem strange to be playing what is effectively a greatest hits album featuring so few of the musicians who featured on it rather than Catch a Fire, or Exodus for example but it most definitely worked with all of the songs being familiar to everyone. The UEA was a sellout and had a good, positive vibe and the whole room was singing and dancing along from start to finish. The second song of course was No Woman, No Cry and there was wonderful singing from the audience giving some hints of the magic that must have been present when Marley sang this at the Lyceum some 40 years ago on that Live! album.
This set the tone for the whole evening, an enthusiastic and responsive audience bringing great joy and positivity to a rather dour and uninviting LCR building (not helped by an incredibly annoying new sticky floor) and bringing such life and colour to the place. The band are tight and it felt like an honor to have them here on the occasion of Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s birthday, he was given a great ovation by the crowd and it was most obvious the love and fondness the Wailers all have for him.
The real highlights for me came towards the end of the evening, Buffalo Soldier (with a great call and response with the audience of Woy oy yoy yoy) a rousing Get Up, Stand Up, and the excellent set closer of Jamming was followed by an encore (sans Family Man) of Redemption Song, the unexpected treat of some Studio One ska with Simmer Down, and finally, Exodus. Redemption Song in particular was the moment I felt Marley’s spirit present and a palpable feeling of unity in the room, this was the absolute highlight of the night for me. Dwayne Anglin had the near impossible task of “being” Marley for 90 minutes but seemed entirely comfortable in the role and unafraid of allowing his own personality to show between songs and reinforce the eternal message of Marley and the faith of Ras Tafari with many comments along the lines of “Be part of the solution, not part of the confusion”, it was a very uplifting evening and he wasn’t trying too hard to “be” Marley himself, more concerned with doing the songs justice and keeping alive the message of the songs. Any concerns about the potential of this seeming like a tribute act were dispelled within seconds of the set starting and it was simply a joyous thing to be a part of and witness – a timely reminder of Marley’s message and the greatness of the songs. The band still have the passion.
Everywhere I have travelled Bob Marley has cropped up in conversation and the power of his songs and even the mention of his name is a unifying thing and opens up friendships and unlimited positivity and love. That was also what the Wailers brought to Norwich tonight and that is surely a most good thing, just what the world needs right now in fact, both the music and the message, as was reinforced to me when I returned home afterwards and read JP’s message of his experiences at “The Jungle” in Calais and the preciousness of music amongst the refugees there.
Remaining dates in the UK:
Tuesday 24 November Manchester The Ritz
Wednesday 25 November Liverpool O2 Academy
Thursday 26 November Oxford O2 Academy
Friday 27 November Bristol O2 Academy
Saturday 28 November London Indigo O2
Sunday 29 November Bournemouth O2 Academy
Many thanks to The Wailers, Solko, and Tabatha at SJM.
Text and live at UEA photos (c) shashamane 2015