Ky-Mani Marley ADD

Review & Photos: Ky-Mani Marley Birthday Bash in Chicago, Il 3/8/2013

03/12/2013 by David Wells

Review & Photos: Ky-Mani Marley Birthday Bash in Chicago, Il 3/8/2013

Ky-Mani Marley Birthday Bash in Chicago, IL @ The Shrine 3/8/2013


The night of March 8th was billed as the Ky-Mani Marley Birthday Bash, at The Shrine in Chicago, Illinois. The venue is an impressive and almost unique mixture of fantastically-hip, nicely-appointed club meets an honest, rootsy, live reggae venue. Once inside, the first thing noticeable is the sound is extraordinary. The walls are covered in retro-posters of musicians who’ve come and gone and throughout the venue there are several gleaming bars staffed with energetic, beautiful, Caribbean women who remember without fail what type of drink you’re having, and serve it up with a smile and a wink warmer than the waters of Montego Bay. The Shrine is a venue that serves reggae up right-and-tight with more than a splash of class.

The majority of the night, the swaying crowd of three-hundred was entertained by both a prominent local DJ by the name of Papa G, and also Chicago’s favorite hometown reggae band Gizzae. DJ Papa G spun stimulating, novel takes on reggae classics as well as contemporary hits and the kinetic response his skills produced was pulsating and appreciative. Next up, around midnight, Gizzae took the stage and went on to display a two hour set of original, evocative roots reggae that spontaneously entranced and exhilarated the swaying mass of humanity that, by that time, had filled The Shrine’s dance floor. Front man, Brian Rock, has the vocal range and delivery equal to, or surpassing, any major roots reggae singer of the 70s and 80s. The occasion was christened for a Marley, but the heavy lifting and delivery was delivered by Gizzae.

Shortly after one-thirty in the morning, it became evident that Ky-Mani Marley had arrived for his “Birthday Bash,” as flashing cameras fired in rapid succession as he posed for photos in the VIP area of the club. He sat amongst leather couches; bottle service was flowing and masses of people strained for a handshake, a greeting, a moment of his time to listen to whatever they were seeking to advance; chaos, flashbulbs, gone. Ky-Mani was escorted toward an auxiliary door and vanished from sight, the crowd that had amassed around him dispersed like the smoke trailing a dimly-lit spliff.

After Ky-Mani’s exodus from the VIP lounge, the crowd on the dance floor was still captive to the booming bass, sharp horn playing and melodic vocals of Gizzae. In fact, much of the club was unaware Ky-Mani had come and gone already. A few songs later, Gizzae wrapped up another tune, and appeared headed directly into another song on their set list, when screams, shrieks and raised-fists exploded forth from the crowd. Ky-Mani strode out on stage and joined Gizzae to lead them through a few of his father’s classics. First was a spirited version of Is This Love, during which Ky-Mani adlibbed from the songs vocals to thank “Chicago” for “coming out tonight,” and seemed genuinely appreciative of his enthusiastic reception, and the occasion as a whole.

The next song performed was No Woman No Cry, and Ky-Mani evoked his father’s delivery in splendid, uncanny fashion. The song cycled through a number of times, and lasted over twelve minutes. But for every second of that twelve-or-so-minutes everyone in attendance was locked in a collective, euphoric, trance of what they’d come down and paid the money for their tickets to experience firsthand. For a relatively short time, everyone in attendance was as close to Bob Marley, the man, the music and the message as they could possibly ever be. His son was delivering –arguably- the most beloved reggae song of all time only meters from where they stood, and the delivery was flawless. This scenario was as close - in an experiential sense - as one could achieve to skanking the night away as the King of Reggae stalked the stage. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare Ky-Mani Marley, or anyone else, to Bob Marley as a performer, but on this night his efforts more than sufficed. Everyone in attendance came down to glimpse the ghost of Natty Dread, and his phantom did blow through the air that night, just like a Natural Mystic.