Click the photo for an audio slideshow of the concert. Or, click here to download an iPod-ready version. 

What : Stephen Marley
When : Friday,


Last Night: Stephen Marley at the Showbox

The legacy continues. Download an audio slideshow of the concert to you iPod.

Click the photo for an audio slideshow of the concert. Or, click here to download an iPod-ready version. 

What: Stephen Marley
When: Friday, April 13
Where: The Showbox 

This might piss off the diehard fans, but reggae music doesn't seem that hard to learn how to play (y'know, compared to prog-rock or something).  Once you get the staccato guitar chords, dry-as-desert-bone drum thwaps, and shoulder-shrug basslines down, then maybe throw in some keyboards or horns or something to flesh it out, bam — party time! I've seen a million reggae bands in my lifetime, and it all sounded fine enough to me ... and even if it were to suck, well, everyone's probably too stoned to give a fuck anyway.

That said, it's passion and soul that sets apart your average, competent reggae group from the likes of a Stephen Marley, who brought a nine-piece backing outfit — a guitarist, drummer, bassist, two keyboardists, a percussionist, two female backup singers, and a guy whose job it was to wave and twirl a Rasta flag all night — plus his younger brother Damian "Junior Gong" Marley to a very packed Showbox on Friday night for a phenomenal and frequently transcendent two-hour performance.  Reggae's rarely sounded this joyful and intense, at least not to my ears.

The second eldest son of Bob Marley, 34-year old Stephen has been involved in the family business (performing and carrying on his dad's enormous legacy) since he was a wee lad, joining older brother Ziggy's Melody Makers at the age of seven, and later on producing several of his many siblings' albums.  Now he's out on the road behind his just-released debut solo album, Mind Control, from which he drew material for nearly half of his 20-song set.  Even before Marley and his band bounded out, there was plenty of smoke wafting around the stage, and it wasn't coming from a fog machine, if you know what I mean.  And when they did begin to play, the already cheering, adoring, and mightily stoned crowd became even happier hearing Bob Marley's "Reggae on Broadway" open the set. 

Of course there were tons of Bob songs -- "Buffalo Soldier," "Iron, Lion, Zion," "Could You Be Loved," and the three-song encore of "Roots, Rock, Reggae," "Jammin'," and "Exodus."  And Stephen — dreds flying, Les Paul guitar slung just so, and that very familiar, and familial, vocal delivery — certainly evoked memories of his father, who died 26 years ago next month. Yet, with that aforementioned passion and soul — plus plenty of charisma and that certain aura that comes from having Bob Marley's DNA coursing through your body — he made the songs his own, and less like a Bob Marley cover band.  It helped that Damian, who was onstage for perhaps seven or eight of the night's songs, has more of a dancehall vocal style, so he breathed some new life into an extended "Could You Be Loved" with some dexterous toasting.  Not that any of that mattered, since the audience was singing along loudly and exuberantly to every single Bob song, drawing immense smiles and laughter from the entire band (except for the towering, stoic flag-twirler).Obviously, there was less crowd participation for Stephen's new material, but it was almost as well received — the slinky "Mind Control" in particular, and other songs that blended classic reggae textures with psychedelic-soul grooves.  I had a good laugh when Stephen and Damian implored the crowd to raise lighters in the air for one of the few slow jams — for once, there were actually more Bics lifted than cell phones ... hey, you can't spark a spliff or a bowl with a Nokia.  Speaking of which, several half-smoked joints were extended to the stage by fans, but Stephen didn't partake — I imagine he had way better stuff backstage or in the massive tour bus parked out in front of the Showbox.  The set ended after nearly two euphoric, sweaty (band and crowd) hours, but I'm sure the party continued well into the night.

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