Concert Sutra Satisfied Our Souls With The Legendary Wailers
by terri sapp
Photographs by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
“Them belly full but we hungry, a hungry mob is a angry mob…” This mob was definitely hungry for the rich thick smooth reggae that continues still after years and years with the Legendary Wailers. April 21, 2004 at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia is a night to go down in history as a few of the best spent hours, so far, of 2004. I have had the pleasure of seeing several Wailers shows in the past, and one commonality is that the line-up of musicians is always different. There are a couple guys that seem to be steady, but the rest shift around. The few that I have noticed who are consistently touring with this truly historical reggae band is Aston “Family man” Barrett, who played with Bob Marley and was in the original Wailers line up, on bass; Zeb Williams on drums; Glenn Decasta, who also played with Bob Marley and has been with the Wailers for a very long time, on saxophone; and Gary Pine on lead vocals. The others that I had the honor of experiencing (I believe) for the first time this show included, Junior Marvin, who played with Bob Marley and has been with the Wailers for a very long time, on lead guitar; Rasmel Glover, who has the longest head of dreads I have ever laid eyes on, on rhythm guitar; Arnold Rockenridge on trumpet; Keith Sterling, who has played with Peter Tosh, on keyboard; and of course, the background singers, Katian Frasier and Roleta Dixon (spelling unsure). There were so many old favorites performed this night, that it will be difficult to cover them all, but I will give it a shot. The first of my beloved pieces of music came from the creative mind of Carlton Barrett, “Them Belly Full” from the 1974 classic post-Bunny Wailer/Peter Tosh “Bob Marley and The Wailers” album, “Natty Dread.”
Followed by another esteemed, “Rat Race,” that can be found on the 1976 “Rastaman Vibration,” 1986 compilation “Rebel Music” or 1978 live album “Babylon by Bus.” “Political violence fill your city, yea-ah. Don’t involve Rasta in you say say. Rasta don’t work for no C.I.A.” This song always makes me think of the ways of society these days along with the days of old. I find it all too interesting that Rita Marley wrote this song during the ELECTIONS of Jamaica in1976. As powerful a message of love that the Wailers play and sing about, the political and social issues are not overlooked. The balance is superb.
Further proof of a lyrical genius is the classic Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “Who the Cap Fit” penned by Aston and Carlton Barrett. “Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy”…”Only your friend know your secrets, so only he could reveal it.” The theme of this song is the substance I think we should all live by…You are who you show yourself to be, not who you might say you are…Actions speak louder than words…
One of Bob Marley’s hymns, “Small Axe” is also a lyrical masterpiece. “If you are a big tree. We are the small axe. Sharpened to cut you down. Ready to cut you down.” There aren’t too many songs as full of symbolism as this one, and with a beautiful melody, to boot.
“Thank You, Lord” shows the spirituality that surrounds and encompasses everything that the Wailers have always stood for in my mind. What a rare song to hear! I believe that to be a first time for me to hear that one live. Followed up by “Sun is Shining” from the fabulous “Kaya” album. This particular album and song has come “to the rescue” many times in my life. These guys are such a great ensemble, it is hard to really pinpoint the individuals as the reggae superstars I know them to be. I, of course, have several favorites on certain instruments. Officially, Aston “Family man” Barrett is my ORIGINAL favorite bass player. Having been born in 1973, I grew up with the Wailers, and can remember hearing and feeling his bass from a very early age. I really can’t think of a bass line that he has ever played that didn’t take me straight to heaven! Reggae is also my most revered genre of music, and “the Family man” exudes the essence of reggae.
Keith Sterling’s keyboarding made me and everyone in attendance “Get up, Stand up!” AND DANCE! The messages behind one of the earliest (1973) releases by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, “Get up, Stand up! Stand of for your rights…Never give up the fight” transcends all boundaries…political, social, human and animal.
Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” shows up in my dreams from time to time…permeating my thoughts and wishes. For me, this anti-Authority anthem personifies the attitudes coming from the power hungry uniform wearing organizations that in ideal situations would protect and serve. “Sheriff John Brown always hated me for what I don’t know. Ev’ry time I plant a seed, he said, “Kill it before it grows.” He said, “Kill them before they grow.”
Katrina and Roleta shine in Marley’s “Slave Driver” from the “Catch a Fire” album. The I-Three, or in this case Two, always rocked this song. The vocals and drums are showing what they are made of. Zeb Williams always amazes me with his precise beats, not to mention his facial expressions. He is definitely making it “WORK.” “Work” is also a song that I think all of us with jobs can appreciate, since “Everyday is work, work, work, work.” Jr. Marvin and Rasmel Glover are working as well. The guitar was unbeatable all night!
I have said before that “Jammin’” is one of my favorite Bob Marley songs. I love hearing it, whether Ziggy is singing it, the Wailers are playing it, or if I’m just listening to “Exodus” on a Sunday afternoon. On this night, Glenn Decasta wailed on the sax, along with Zeb Williams on drums, The Family man on bass, and both guitars and keyboards…there is no way to hear this and not shake and skank and let it loose! Speaking of letting it loose, “Kinky Reggae” from “Catch a Fire” always reminds me of how wonderfully delicious rastaman is! “Kinky Reggae” is the rastaman version of a modern day booty song. “I went downtown. I saw Ms. Brown. She had brown sugar all over her booga-wooga. I think I might join the fun, but I had to hit and run. See I just can’t settle down in a kinky part of town. Ride on! Ride on!” I can’t think of a crew I’d rather hear this song from. Singing about how kinky the reggae is makes me feel like a true “Heathen”…in the typical sense of the word. Zeb Williams and Jr. Marvin really let us have it in the face on “the Heathen.” Arnold Rockenridge and Glenn Decasta blew all over with “Roots, Rock, Reggae.” Glenn Decasta has an overflowing personality and shows in his face how much fun he is having and that he is feeling the love. Man, the horns. The trills and flutters coming from those pipes sent me through vibrato wonderland. Sing about how much we cherish music and dancing, and I’ll always sing along. A tease of “Rainbow Country” doesn’t hurt, either.
For all the ladies in the house, Gary Pine utilizes his gorgeous falsettos on “No Woman, No Cry.” Everything about this song is uplifting and encouraging. No matter what, when I hear these words and music, I know, “Ev’rything’s gonna be alright.” Gary and the girls also insisted “keep ya’ head up.”
These guys get to steppin’ it up a bit with the most unabashed love song ever from the treasure-filled “Kaya” album, “Is This Love?” “I, I’m willing and able, so I throw my cards on your table. I wanna love you, I wanna love and treat you right. I wanna love you every day and every night.” No truer words have ever been spoken.
When you hear the strumming of the acoustic guitar, and get wind of the first words of “Redemption Song,” you have to know the end is near. At this time in the show, the entire crowd sings along, then out of nowhere, the band busts out with that rockin cool version of “Redemption Song,” then mellows on a middle plane into a melody of harmonies like I’ve never heard. These girls have voices of the most beautiful songbirds. They dance like the wind, too. They “rocked my boat,” or should I say “satisfied my soul.” Wailers, I want to “meet you around the corner” and “feel like a sweepstakes winner,” because you make me feel “happy inside all of the time!”
How can you top an evening with the Wailers that ends with “One Love?” I am not a religious person by “normal” standards, but in spiritual terms, this is “CHUCH!” to me…”One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.” Or we thought it was over…as if we could be more inspired, “Three Little Birds” feeds us with an age old enlightenment “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause ev’ry little thing gonna be alright.” Actually, I can’t think of any other way I would have wanted to end this landmark affair.
I find it extremely rare to come across a group of musicians and vocalists that are such a tight ensemble, no one overshadows. Everyone in this band, The Wailers, is a legend in their own time and place, and together, they EARN and DESERVE to be called LEGENDARY…
For more information and tour dates from The Wailers, visit their website at http://www.wailers.com/. You can also find all kinds of Bob Marley memorabilia at http://www.bobmarley.com/. For Ms. Yetter’s fabulous photo gallery from the April 21, 2004 Legendary Wailers show at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia, go to: www.concertsutra.com/wailers0404.
****Special Thanks go out to Rich, Tour Manager of the Wailers.