Review // The Wailers bring the spirit of Bob Marley to Bristol on their Legend tour

The Wailers unite fans from all walks of life for an evening of love and live reggae music at O2 Academy

Fans of Bob Marley’s legendary band The Wailers filled Bristol’s O2 Academy from floor to ceiling last week, with people packing out the dancefloor and balcony areas to unite in one celebration of love, music and a heartfelt ode to the legendary Bob Marley.

Fronted by the energetic and charismatic Joshua David Barrett, the band is comprised of original members Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, Junior Marvin, Donald Kinsey, and an assortment of members of the famous Barrett family and their gifted descendants. The Wailers do a superb job of holding the torch to carry on the message of Bob Marley, as the great man himself once instructed: ‘Keep The Wailers together, by doing that you keep me alive through music.’

Island-influenced, Californian heavy-rock beats with a reggae twist, Common Kings were an interesting and energetic choice to support The Wailers on their UK tour.

Island-influenced, Californian heavy-rock beats with a reggae twist, Common Kings were an interesting and energetic choice to support The Wailers on their UK tour. The Californian-Hawaiian quartet began their set with a heavy rock inspired Game Of Thrones theme-tune jam, which left the super nerd in me fan-girding hard. Whilst I tried to maintain some composure over the next few songs, the band really engaged the crowd with their original sound.

The band was fronted by the phenomenally talented vocalist Jr King, whose gripping stage presence and crystal vocals captivated the reggae lovers in the room. Already big in the US, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Common Kings conquering the UK after supporting The Wailers on this leg of their tour.

A stage holding several seasoned veterans and legends of the music scene

After a quick interval, The Wailers glided onto the stage, effortlessly humble in their lack of announcement and bravado. A stage holding several seasoned veterans and legends of the music scene, the band allowed their introduction to come from a message of truth and charity, inspiring the attendees to donate and visit Fairfield House in Bath, which is said to have been home to Haile Selassie I. Singing praises to the Rastafarian movement, the band then broke into song and worked their way through the 1984 greatest hits album Legend, plus a few more of Bob Marley’s classic hits.

Transcending a music concert to more of an all-round empowering experience

Transcending a music concert to more of an all-round empowering experience, The Wailers embodied the full spirit of Rastafari and worked with the crowd to brew a truthful and honest feeling of love, friendship and compassion.

Vocal support was exquisitely delivered by the phenomenal Shema McGregor and Hassanah, beautifully weaving harmonic excellence through the classic reggae anthems whilst proudly sporting the most colourful African-Jamaican inspired costume Bristol has ever seen. Highlighted best on the beautiful track One Love, the two women took it in turns to sing powerful solo sections accompanied by piano, to the dazzled amazement of the expectant audience.

the two women took it in turns to sing powerful solo sections accompanied by piano

By the end of the evening, the crowd was buzzing with contentment and a peaceful awe was shared among all that spilled out of the venue. Pleasantries were extended between strangers and the spirit of Marley was very present within the O2. Here’s hoping it’s not their last tour, one love!

Words by Molly Chinner
Photos by Simon Newbury

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