February 12, 2015

Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley

Bob Marley’s birthday is always an event whether it’s a nice, big round number we’re celebrating, or an obscure, odd one. The annual Reggae Month programming organized by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) was established in February for a few different reasons, one of them being Bob’s Earthstrong. And, no matter what, you can always count on a Binghi ceremony and other programming at 56 Hope Road, aka the Bob Marley Museum. (See our coverage of Friday’s “The Legacy Continues” event there). But this year being Bob’s 70th, you knew there had to be something special in the offering, and for those lucky enough to be in Kingston, it was Saturday night’s free Redemption Live! concert along the harbor in the city’s downtown.

Unlike the typical Jamaican stage show that doesn’t really get going til midnight and goes on well past dawn, Redemption Live! began and ended promptly, at 6pm and 2am, respectively. There was little advance information available about the lineup, as most advertising for the show featured only the name “Sons of Marley,” leaving you to guess which sons exactly would be showing up, and who else would be joining them. Chronixx and Lauryn Hill’s names came up as possible performers, but Lauryn was not there, and Chronixx only was for a brief cameo during Tarrus Riley’s set with the Blak Soil Band.

With nothing certain, the crowd was well-packed from jump, which was appropriate considering that it was Tarrus Riley who started things off, followed by No-maddz, fresh off their brilliant Marley Museum set. From then, it was a fast-moving assembly line of compact but impactful 15-20 minute sets backed by the Ruff Kut Band, all under the watchful gaze of Bob as seen in some of his most classic photographs.

I-Threes Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths did back-to-back solo sets, before joining up to sing “Trenchtown Rock.” Cocoa Tea dropped the staples “Lost My Sonia” and “18 and Older,” and teased bits of Air Supply and Beres Hammond; Richie Spice performed his hits, “Youths So Cold,” “Earth a Run Red,” “Brown Skin Girl” and “Marijuana.” Freddie McGregor and I-Octane drew forwards with sets that favored their more cultural material. The best performance of the night came from Capleton, who, as I wrote in Rolling Stone, “practically levitated through a calisthenics-filled, lighter-raising set while wearing a resplendent yellow robe.” I want to say he was in rare form, but Capleton is always this good, he just had to pack more into less time.

Tessanne Chin had the unenviable task of following the Fireman, but she did good, dropping a “Redemption Song” cover in with her pop-reggae fare. Then it was up to the Sons of Marleyโ€” Ky-mani, Julian and Damian, no Ziggy or Steveโ€”to close out the show with successive solo sets, and the eventual joint performance.

Scroll through the gallery below to pree all of the highlights from Saturday night.