Stephen and Ziggy Marley came to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles on November 1, to perform a unique concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of their fathers classic Reggae album, Exodus. The ornate venue in the heart of the original theater district of America’s movie capital was slow to fill up on this sultry night. It was the final night of the World Series of Baseball, just several miles away at Dodger Stadium and the band delayed the show for nearly an hour. As sports fans in nearby bars huddled around televisions, it became apparent early on that the hometown favorites were destined to lose. The theater finally began to fill to capacity, and the show got underway.
The evening began with the core band onstage under demure lighting. Stephen and Ziggy traded vocals on a three-song set of Bob Marley classics that were not from the Exodus album. The legendary music producer Don Was sat barefoot and crossed legged on the stage playing bass. New Orleans veteran drummer Terence Higgins from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the fellow New Orleans legend Cyril Neville played percussions. A pair of guitarists and keyboard players also made up the house band. The core group played the three Marley classics, Could You Be Loved, Small Axe and Redemption Song, before launching into Exodus.
The classic Bob Marley masterpiece has recently been reworked and re-released by Ziggy to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic album. As the stage lights came up and a litany of pop stars lined up to join the action, the sold-out audience leaped to their feet, beginning a Reggae danceathon that lasted until the final note was played. Stephen Marley took over lead vocals on the first song, So Much Things to Say followed by Cyril Neville taking the microphone on Guiltiness.
Then the impressive lineup of guest musicians appeared one by one to take over as frontmen for a song or two. Citizen Cope came out next sing a blue-eyed soul version of The Heathen. Stephen Marley again took the lead after that, on a dance inspiring version of Jammin. Lead vocals next went to R&B master Aloe Blacc playing a soulful version of Wait in Vain. The musical composition took another big turn on the next song when the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, Jim James came out to play an almost psychedelic mini set. First, he sang vocals on Turn Your Lights Down Low. Then Aloe Black returned to the stage and did an intriguing duet with James on Three Little Birds. James later joined in the jam playing a trippy fuzzed out guitar.
Then the Marley brothers took over the vocals for a duet sing along, that had the audience erupting in harmony on the universally known, One Love/People Get Ready. Then the energy reached a fever pitch as the massive chandeliers hanging from the ceilings were shaken by the intense guitar riffs of Tom Morello. The guitar legend and political activist played a wailing guitar solo, Stephen Marley sang Exodus. Morello got a roar from the crowd as he flipped his guitar over revealing a Fuck Trump sticker on the back at the height of his solo. It was a fitting finale to the set and one of the only real political moments of the night.
After a short break, the band returned for an encore of other Bob Marley classics. The group led by both Marley’s began with All Day, All Night. Then blues guitar master Gary Clark Jr. joined them to sing and play a wailing guitar on No Woman, No Crime. Later Tom Morello returned to the stage joining Gary Clarke Jr. on dueling guitars while Ziggy sang I Shot the Sheriff. The stage was then engulfed with all the musicians who had performed throughout the evening for a final sing-along finale of, “Get Up, Stand Up,” as the audience sang and danced.
It was an inspiring night of music organized by Blackbird Presents, the same company that, earlier this year, held tribute concerts for The Band’s “The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary” and before that Little Feat’s “Waiting For Columbus.” The show was a testament to the genius of Bob Marley and the timeless music that he left for generations of music lovers.