Bob Marley died in 1981, but the legendary Jamaican singer-songwriter’s music continues to shine through his children. David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley, Bob’s eldest son and arguably his most successful offspring, has carried the torch by performing his father’s style of conscious roots reggae for over three decades. His set at MTelus on September 19th blended some of Bob’s most famous hits with his own unique pop-influenced reggae for an unforgettable evening of positive vibrations.
With no opening act, Ziggy Marley and his eight-piece band hit the stage shortly after 8:30. The Rastafarian vibe was represented by red, gold, and green lighting, a huge Lion of Judah backdrop, and his knee-length natty dreads. The only thing missing was a spliff!
Marley dropped several tracks from his new album Rebellion Rises, including “Change Your World,” “Circle of Peace,” “World Revolution,” and “Rebellion Rises.” The new material mixes roots reggae sounds with a positive, uplifting, and more political message than some of his older music. But the songs are never angry or bitter. The music is a call to action. Like his father, Ziggy promotes love, unity and emancipation from mental slavery—reminding us the time for action is now.
Marley also performed tracks from his older albums, and, compared to the roots style and politically conscious message of Rebellion Rises, his older songs sound like 80s pop music. One of my favourite Melody Makers-era tunes is “Look Who’s Dancing” from One Bright Day, an almost perfect reggae pop-song that had the whole crowd smiling and, well, dancing. “Beach in Hawaii” sounds like it should be really cheesy, with sentimental lyrics like “I wish you were here with me on a beach in Hawaii.” The song is so relaxing and sweet, though, that it actually works. “Love is my Religion,” another overly sentimental one, included a short section of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” But look, this wasn’t an angry punk show, and no one was expecting to get punched in the face!
With a catalogue of Bob Marley’s songs at his disposal, many of which are about love—Ziggy’s favourite theme—obviously he fully took advantage of his father’s most recognizable tunes. His cover of “Positive Vibrations,” one of Bob’s best songs, sounded massive on the house system. Likewise, “Get Up Stand Up” was a root classic and a call to action that suits Ziggy’s most recent political music. The encore featured two of Bob’s most popular and sentimental tracks that were undoubtedly crowd favourites because everyone sang along: “One Love” and “Is This Love.”
Bob’s music is as marketable as it is universal and being the son of the reggae legend gives Ziggy Marley more credibility to play his father’s music. Of course, it helps that he looks and sounds a hell of a lot like his father. But this was how reggae music was meant to be played: on a great sound system like the one at MTelus, with clean bass and fantastic sound.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Mike Milito