Review: Marley delivers the goods

Jun. 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

REVIEW BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

Damian Marley prowled the stage during the Republik Music Festival on Saturday, June 15. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Damian Marley prowled the stage during the Republik Music Festival on Saturday, June 15. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

I started out with a few frustrations with the Republik Music Festival: Jamrock Edition — a long, slow line to get into the outdoor amphitheatre; a big lag between Santigold’s set, which couldn’t last long enough for me (love her), and the start of Damian Marley’s show. But in the afterglow of headliner Damian Marley’s warm, rewarding performance, I’m just satisfied and mellow.

Damian Marley pumped up the crowd, jumping during his set at the Republik Music Festival. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Damian Marley pumped up the crowd, jumping during his set at the Republik Music Festival. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Could it be a contact high? Nah, but that could have been arranged, since the night air at Kakaako Waterfront Park was thick with ganja smoke. (Marley might have approved, given that in the process of giving Bruno Mars a shoutout from the stage, Marley suggested Mars get hold of some good marijuana.)

I didn’t need any extra help to get satisfaction from Marley’s show, because he gave out everything needed from the stage. With his energy, expressive voice and verbal dexterity, and sensitivity to audience desires, he delivered the goods.

The audience cheered, danced and sang along as Marley worked his way through an hour-long set that drew largely from his monster hit album, “Welcome to Jamrock,” and songs made famous by his father, Bob Marley.

Marley gives a lot physically during a show, jumping high while spitting out rapid-fire verses or leaning into melodic songs, his voice raggedly expressive. His band was slick and instantly responsive to his cues.

At the amphitheatre, the stage burned bright with lights, sometimes flashing white in a rapid pattern that reminded me of fireworks.

But the beauty of his performance was that it didn’t hinge on spectacle.

There was meaning to his patter, and the attraction, I think, came largely from his affecting vocals, rather than flash.

Damian Marley, a Rastafarian, has dreadlocks that reach his ankles. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Damian Marley, a Rastafarian, has dreadlocks that reach his ankles. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

HIGHLIGHTS came throughout:

In the encore, “Road to Zion,” which had a gorgeous, fluid vocal and a soulful, defiant message: “save me your sorries, I’m raising an army / Revolutionary warfare with Damian Marley / We sparkin’ the ions, marching to Zion…”

In the quotes (“Crazy Baldhead,” “Exodus”) and full-song renderings of Bob Marley’s “War/No More Trouble,” and “Could You Be Loved,” the song Bruno Mars brought to this year’s Grammy show and invited Marley to join in on.

In “More Justice” with its sing-along line picked up from newspaper hype, “Extra, extra read all about it” (“Ghetto youths in need and there is no doubt about it”).

And in the last song of the night, the dynamic “Welcome to Jamrock,” which sent a fresh pulse of excitement through the crowd. Marley asked fans to hold up their lighters and cell phones, and beaming, they happily complied.

As they had throughout the show, the band kept it tight, but the bass grew even louder.

It was a powerful end to the evening.

MARLEY’s hour-long performance wasn’t all there was to his show: An additional 45 minutes or so before he took the stage was given over to three frontmen who are on his Ghetto Youths International label: Black-Am-I, Christopher Ellis and Wayne Marshall, whose album is about to come out.

These three were all capable singers — Black-Am-I the most soulful, Ellis romantic and Marshall bouncy in performance and effect — but they also helped reveal that energy, earnestness and staying in tune are not enough to captivate an audience. Without Marley’s bold statement, invention and grasp of genre, their music didn’t leave a big impression.

Ghetto Youths International artist Black Am I came out first in a set leading up to Damian Marley's appearance. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Ghetto Youths International artist Black Am I came out first in a set leading up to Damian Marley’s appearance. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

SANTIGOLD, on the other hand, was marvelous. Her songs are layered with meaning and ultra-contemporary — global, with a digital heart. And she puts on a great show, with quick costume changes and two deadpan dancers who twirled umbrellas while prancing in costume, engaged in some acrobatic Jamaican dancing and generally threatened to steal the stage.

She performed to an electronic background track, with a DJ/soundman up on stage. It’s worthwhile to remember that this is also a classic way to perform on the streets and stages of Jamaica.

Santigold performs at the Republik Music Festiva. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Santigold performs at the Republik Music Festiva. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

I didn’t want her set to end, and was disappointed when she didn’t encore. I hope she returns to Hawaii soon for a full headlining show of her own.

And note: Putting aside the clouds of chronic, I love Hawaii’s reggae fans! Reggae is a great uniter in Hawaii, and it brings out a hearty cross-section of people, from muscled surfers to baggy-clothesed outsiders to slumming rich kids in boat shoes and button-downs. Great people-watching!
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Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com or follow her on Twitter.

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