Saturday, April 15, 2006

Damian Marley - Auckland Review

Damian Marley @ The Saint James, Auckland, Thurs. 6 April

When Bob Marley came to New Zealand in 1979 and played in Auckland, he did so amidst an atmosphere of great anticipation, positivity and celebration - the gig, and Marley himself being symbolic of the potential for human liberation and freedom, and the struggle of people worldwide to uplift and empower themselves and their communities. The Marley legacy was carried on by various members of Bobs' family, including his youngest son, Damian. Damian Marley released his first album in 1996, his second in 2001, and in 2005, the release of his third album, Welcome To Jamrock, saw the artist blow-up worldwide on a scale not seen by a reggae artist for some time. His biggest track, Welcome To Jamrock, is a politically hard-hitting, powerful statement about the grim reality of life for many in Jamaica and the hypocrisy and exploitation that takes place in regards to this country. It was with this backdrop – firstly, being part of one of reggaes biggest family legacies; secondly, with his own recent rise to prominence - that Damian Marley arrived last week in Aotearoa, to perform a one-off show in Auckland.

After unfortunately missing Katchafire who played a support set, we arrived to some nice tunes from the support DJ who warmed up the crowd well and kept the vibe flowing in-between the band change. With a near-capacity St James crowd buzzing with anticipation, Jnr Gong hit the stage with Confrontation and worked his way through the first part of the show with tracks from all three of his albums, including Justice, Beautiful, There For You, Love and Inity and Me Name Jnr Gong. He then went on to perform some of his fathers' classic tunes - Crazy Baldhead and Exodus which set the crowd ablaze. The Gong then brought it back to his original material, busting out In Too Deep, the classic, Khaki Suit, and Written, before ending with another true classic, Could You Be Love. The crowd was amped for more and Jnr Gong did not disappoint, coming back with a first-class encore. The Gong started out with a medley of classic Marley tunes that sent the crowd into a frenzy, then ending with For The Babies, Road To Zion and the smash-hit, Welcome To Jamrock.

Jnr Gong was backed by a 7 piece band - drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards - who throughout the whole performance were razor sharp. It was a true privilege to hear such an amazingly tight reggae band making beautiful music - obviously true professionals. The band were the lynchpins of the show, providing the most solid of foundations for the Gong to work with. Marley also had two brilliant women as his backing singers, who sang and danced vibrantly and added a powerful element to the show. Not to mention the spirited flag-bearer who also lit up the stage and kept the positive energy flowing.

Damian Marley himself was both charismatic and powerful on stage. He commanded the crowds' attention for the entire duration and his strong movements and presence combined with his excellent vocal skills were a pleasure to watch and listen to. The Gong also continuously chatted and sent out positive messages to the masses about upliftment, and living itally and consciously and reinforced these messages throughout the show. It was truly moving to hear the Gong perform some of his fathers' classic reggae anthems. He did so with a sense of pride, and this also provided a real sense of connectivity between the music and its historical and cultural background. Marley managed to mix the classics up with his own material, in such a way as to reflect his strong reggae heritage, while also highlighting his own musical influences and leanings. His performance, like that of his bands, was first-class, and had a maturity and strength not usually seen from one so young.

It is hard to sum up an event of such high calibre, and describe the vibe and feelings generated from a group of people gathered in recognition and celebration of reggae music, roots and culture and a Rootsman exemplifying this and spreading the message to the world. Big ups to the crowd on the night for their enthusiasm and positive energy – representing New Zealand well! Nuff respect to the band and the singers for their inspirational performance. And big respect to the one named Jnr Gong – representing himself, his family and roots and culture in only the best possible way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

man good review !! i saw him in sydney a few days ago and it was a killaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa preformance.... jah bless !

7:56 PM  
Blogger khris said...

Word...the Melbourne show was also crazy. Definitely one of the best live shows I've seen in a minute.

7:35 PM  

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