We got there early and, after a short queue in a dimly lit tunnel - we finally got to the ticket booth, I grab my press pass and stroll on through the monstrously big glass doors, into the auditorium. When you go from such a small, confined space straight into a massive open area, it gives you a feeling of excitement that you just don’t get with other venues. We scurried on in, and got nicely setup at the front.
At 19:30 The Hempolics came to the stage, featuring Harry Collier, Grippa Laybourne, and vocalists Nubiya Brandon and ‘Dandelion’. We were more than ready....
The crowd was instantly brought to life with the first kick drum, bringing their authentic rootsy vibes and vintage lo-fi sound, they played a short but sweet set which got me sweating, and setup nicely for the rest of the show.
Highlights form their set for me included “Me Love to Sing”, “High & Gritty” and “News Readers”.
As well as recordings and live shows The Hempolics are known for producing ‘gritty’ music videos with a striking realness to accompany their sound, which contrasts with the pretentiousness of today’s over-saturated music industry…
Upper Cut & Solo Banton
At 20:00 UK based roots reggae band Upper Cut rise to the spotlight. These guys are well known for supporting some of the biggest names on the scene so tonight shouldn't prove too problematic for them.
The set started with a blissful performance from the saxophone and trombone players, accompanied by keys and drums – when, out of no-where comes Solo Banton, the sound-system ‘selecta’. I didn’t see that coming!
Solo proceeded to have his way with the crowd, showing off his awesome personality, stage presence and vastly intellectual lyrics, whilst seamlessly merging dancehall, roots and dub. In addition to an on-going mashup of reggae covers including Dawn Penn’s “No, No No” and Mungo’s Hi-Fi remix of The Hempolics’ “Love To Sing”.
One of my highlights of the whole event was during his song – “No”. When he got literally everyone in the room chanting back at the end of each hook, and by the end of the track everyone was going crazy!
Would you ever sell your soul for vanity? - NO
Would you ever make the money a priority? - NO
Would you ever join the nega-tivi-tivity? - NO
Low-end bass rattled my ears, and the vibrations nearly knocked me to the floor! By 8:30 the room had really started to get busy, and the air was filled with the strong smell of ganja... Not that I was complaining!
By 21:00, It was time for The Wailers to play the best-selling reggae album of all time in its entirety....
Dwayne Anglin, with an uncanny resemblance of the one and only, did an incredible job in filling the massive shoes of Bob Marley. Backed by Shema McGregor, Carlton and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, Donald Kinsey and of course Junior Marvin, the authenticity of their music remained true to that of Bob Marley’s original band, and I believe this is due to Family Man and Junior Marvin having a life-long friendship and love of music.
Not to be confused with The Original Wailers, these guys really knew how to put on a show, the energy and charisma they put out was replicated throughout the audience, young or old. It was one of the few shows I have been to where I knew pretty much every word of every song, and with no surprise, as Legend is seen by many, as THE album that defines reggae, and is arguably one of the most influential in all world music.
For the rest of the evening, everybody was skankin’ n dancin’ along to the sounds of the one and only. It was truly magical. Reinforced by the message of unity and harmony represented in reggae music, despite all the recent turmoil in the world, it was comforting to see everyone in the room coming together as one, to support the legacy of Bob Marley & The Wailers.
For the encore, they played Redemption. A humble, yet seemingly appropriate way to end the show. The two-hour set finished far too quickly for my liking, but that didn’t stop me having the most fun I’ve had in a long time! Well worth the five month wait!
Me Love to Sing
High & Gritty
Life Ain’t Easy
No Me No
Know No Way
Kung Fu Master
Talk To Me
Chalice Haffi Blaze
Burn Babylon Coke
I Wanna’ Love You
I Shot The Sheriff
No Woman No Cry
Could You Be Loved
Stir It Up
Waiting In Vain
Is This Love
Roots, Rock, Reggae
Three Little Birds
Get Up, Stand Up
Satisfy My Soul
Review and Photography by Alex Sydenham