Gig review: The Wailers @ The Ritz, Manchester

It might have been freezing cold outside in Manchester last night but inside The Ritz, The Wailers brought a ray of Kingston sunshine to the city.

The Jamaican legends are a band that need little introduction, having pioneered roots rock reggae in the 1970s.

Forty years, 13 studio albums and 250million sales later and the band remain committed to touring their celebrated music around the globe, spreading ‘positive vibes’ along the way.

Last night they were here to play the biggest selling reggae album of all time, Legend, in its entirety and – although only one original Wailer, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, makes up the current line-up – the band live up to expectations with an energetic and uplifting performance.

After a funky three minute guitar instrumental from rhythm guitarist Audley Chisholm, Danglin, Keith, Zeb and Ceegee arrive on stage with unmistakable swagger – kitted out in Adidas, bandanas and shades.

The band get straight down to business, kicking things off with Track 1 from the 1981 album, Is this Love, and the sea of bodies down the front of the stage begin to bop their heads in sync.

It’s hard not to get lost in the groove and even harder to fight the urge to light up an illegal substance, as mysterious puffs of smoke appear and begin rising up to the ceiling.

Although Bob Marley is sorely missed, frontman Dwayne Danglin is at ease on stage, considering the big shoes and even bigger dreads he has to fill, and delivers every word with passion and sincerity.

Encouraging the crowed to free their minds from stress and worries from the working week, the singer oozes positive vibes which pour off the stage and spread all around the venue.

“Every little thing is gonna be alright, Manchester”, he says, before delving in to the care-free classic, Three Little Birds.

The band reel off back-to-back hits including Buffalo SoldierNo Woman No Cry and Get Up, Stand Up, much to the delight of the rapturous crowd who continue to bop and sing along to every word.

EVERY LITTLE THING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT: Bob Marley is sorely missed but his spirit lives on (©Monosnaps, with thanks)

It’s hard to believe Legend is 30 years old, as the music and lyrics sound just as current and relevant today as they did back then.

“If you love Bob, if you love music, if you love humanity and equality put your hand up”, says Danglin, before proclaiming, “One love.”

The band, now well in their stride, perform tracks I Shot The Sherriff and Waiting In Vain much to the delight of the crowd and the air becomes particularly potent during a dreamy and sensual rendition of Rock the Boat.   

The set is brought to a close with the 1977 Exodus hit, Jamming, a classic Marley track with a special groove that makes it almost impossible to keep still – but the crowd want more.  

After leaving the stage to the sound of great cheers from the packed-out venue, Danglin returns with an acoustic guitar to perform a deeply moving rendition of Redemption Song – arguably one of Marley’s greatest works.

The Wailers then re-join the stage to perform Exodus and Exit-Us-Party and backing singer Ceegee has the chance to display some impressive and energetic dance moves, whilst swinging a towel above her head.

It feels like the gig has turned into a party, and the crowd are basking in nostalgic euphoria with their hands in the air, moving and grooving in celebration of the special sound Bob Marley and The Wailers have created.   

Although he’s not on stage, it’s clear his spirit is very much alive in every song, which continues to inspire the hopes and dreams of everybody who feels it.

The Legend lives on.

Top image courtesy of Bruno Piatti, with thanks

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