Review: Ziggy Marley in Los Angeles, CA 12/17/2011
by Larson Sutton
Ziggy Marley in Los Angeles, CA @ Club Nokia 12/17/2011
►► PHOTOS HERE
Without the benefit of hindsight, ranking the prime of a musician’s career can be tricky. There are some who feel Ziggy Marley’s high time was his hit-rich days with the sibling-laden Melody Makers. Yet, any in attendance at his recent Club Nokia one-off in downtown Los Angeles could make a very strong argument to the contrary.
The 2,300-seat venue is but one of myriad options for disposable income in the L.A. Live mega-mart of dining, sports, and entertainment . Surrounded by all the trappings of both ongoing and seasonal fare, (on this night one could pass a car giveaway, temporary ice skating rink, and a walking 7-foot bowling pin), the club, itself, has no marquee and sits two escalator flights up from a Lucky Strike bowling alley and Latin dancehall. It’s easy to miss it, and even easier to miss that a reggae superstar was performing. However, the near-capacity crowd, ranging from hipsters to date-night couples to aging reggae aficionados knew exactly why it was there.
Marley eased onto the stage to anxious applause, thanked the audience for the book donations, (part of his URGE charity’s drive), and launched a slow, deliberate take on opener Personal Revolution. As has become customary at most concerts, cellphone cameras immediately vied for position, but on this night Club security blinked flashlights at those capturing too much of a good thing. Low end rippled through Be Free and Welcome to the World, the latter minus the on-tape intro of baby’s cries, as the pace of the set seemed somewhat restrained. Marley’s grey/green zipper jacket and blue jeans echoed a workman-like spirit though with a darker, deeper mood. Beach in Hawaii followed suit, and while most of the songlist mirrored that of the past three months on his current Forward to Love tour, the music had a feeling of inevitability. Breaking into a smile, Marley offered Reggae in My Head, and the crowd responded in kind, gleefully singing along during an extended outro on the tune’s chorus.
Stir it Up received the expected appreciation from those happy to share Ziggy with the memory of his legendary father. It was here that the show threatened to turn loose, yet Marley reigned it in with a focused and terse Forward to Love, a slight departure from the single’s bounce on this year’s Grammy-nominated Wild and Free album. The evening’s mid-point featured chart-topper recognition for Tomorrow People, the giddy True to Myself, and ska-infused Black Cat. It was on this last of the three that the energy discernibly shifted as Marley, not coincidentally, laid his guitar onto the stand and began to dance.
From here to concert’s end, the band and its leader sparkled with life. Is This Love? has become such a force in the set, with Ziggy’s interpretation as strong as on any one of his own, and equally has shined a light on timekeeper Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis, whose flourishes throughout lift the classic to a new peak. The title track closed the pre-encore portion as Marley bounded offstage while the band played on.
During the brief pause before the encore, stage crew was spotted lining a guitar pedal board a few steps stage right of Ziggy’s microphone, indicating a guest artist was afoot. Yet, when Marley and his eight-piece ensemble returned for Justice, the big surprise was not another musician but a segue at song’s end into the Bob Marley/Haile Selassie directive, War. Another Wild and Free cut, Changes, followed before the fuse was lit for more vintage Tuff Gong as Ziggy welcomed, “brother,” Ben Harper to the party. While casual observers may think I Shot The Sheriff is commonplace at any Ziggy show, it isn’t, and fittingly Marley generously conceded much of the vocal to the soulful, impassioned Harper. The night could’ve ended there with not a single person unsatisfied, but Marley left the holiday season, the last show of 2011, with one more gift, as Look Who’s Dancing brought up the house lights and swung open the exits.
While Ziggy Marley may follow up this album and tour with an even more impressive effort, it should be clear that at this moment, with this group of musicians, he is soaring. To miss it is to miss something very special in reggae music.
Welcome to the World
Beach in Hawaii
Reggae in My Head
Stir it Up
Forward to Love
True to Myself
Love is My Religion
Is This Love?
Wild and Free
I Shot the Sheriff*
Look Who’s Dancing
*with Ben Harper (guitar, vocal)