Sunday, June 18, 2000

Wailers keep Marley's legacy alive

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        Any reggae group playing roots rock is indebted to or affected by the legacy of the late Bob Marley, but no group carries that legacy around like the Wailers.

        They were, after all, once Bob Marley and the Wailers, the backup band for the first man to make Jamaican music an international force.

        The band, which played a two-hour set at Annie's Thursday night into Friday morning, isn't the exact powerhouse ensemble that backed Mr. Marley until his 1981 death, but their show was a fine tribute to their one-time boss and the music they once made with him.

        The lineup was a mix of long-time Wailers and hired guns. Bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, keyboardist Earl “Wia” Lindo, and singer Marcia Griffiths were among the original members, as well as a three-piece horn section that recorded with Mr. Marley.

        After singing four songs at the beginning of the show, Ms. Griffiths — part of Mr. Marley's backup singing trio the I-Threes — joined another woman singer as backup.

        Mr. Barrett, who served as Mr. Marley's musical director, hasn't lost any skill over the years, and during a short little dub breakdown in the middle of the set, he tore off a few lines that rattled the fillings. But he's just the bass player, and the original players didn't shine any brighter than the new guys. It was all about the songs, not the musicians.

        They could have taken the easy route and played nothing but the hits. Instead, the inevitable covers were interspersed with several instrumentals and more obscure numbers.

        Gary “Nesta” Pines, who proceeded Ms. Griffiths as lead vocalist, began his portion of the night with a medley of “Bend Down Low” and “Kaya,” an indication that the show wasn't going to be programmed like a run-of-the-mill tribute. Most all of the big hits eventually came, but there were enough curve balls to keep things interesting.

        Mr. Pines did an admirable job singing those songs. It's interesting that one of Mr. Marley's children isn't the lead singer, since he left behind almost as many musically inclined kids as great songs.


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