By Shelah Moody
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
“Wicka Wow Wicka Wow Wicka Wow Wow Wow Wow….”
He must have channeled the spirit of Bob Marley.
On stage at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, during the 40th Anniversary tribute to Bob Marley’s “Exodus” album, while an all-star cast was jamming on the title track, Tom Morello made his guitar whisper, then talk, wail, then shout, then scream. After delivering what will go down in rock and roll history as one of the most bad booty guitar solos of all time, the Rage Against the Machine musician flipped over his guitar and played it with his teeth. On the back of Morello’s guitar was a hand-written sign with a clear message.
The audience, a post-modern group of reggae heads, dead heads, millennials, Hollywood insiders, intellectuals, mystics and critics went wild at the silent F-bomb aimed at Agent Orange Number 45. There was one more message scrawled on the front of Morello’s guitar: “Arm the Homeless.”
Lest we forget, reggae music is peace music but it is also protest music as well as a catalyst for change.
And the struggle continues. Not far from the Orpheum Theatre, thousands of Americans are visible and vulnerable in homeless encampments on Skid Row and underneath major southern California freeways. Bob Marley must have known that we would have been talking about his iconic 1977 “Exodus” as he was putting it together, or why else would his lyrics and prophecies be relevant in the 21st century? Bob must have also known that his two eldest sons, Ziggy and Stephen, would take his music to the next level.
On November 1st, 2017 at the Orpheum Theatre, as the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race to the World Series, Grammy winning musicians Ziggy and Stephen Marley led an all-star concert celebrating the 40th anniversary edition of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ classic “Exodus” with Ziggy Marley as mixing engineer.
“Time” magazine extolled Exodus as the album of the 20th century.
“Exodus was a natural theme for Marley,” Vivien Goldman writes in “The Book of Exodus”: The Making & Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century.” (Three Rivers Press, 2006). ”Its issues of power, betrayal, hope disillusionments and the search for serenity were all uppermost in his mind as he created the ‘Exodus’ album with the Wailers. The Book of Exodus deals with leaving familiar oppression behind, braving the unknown and letting faith guide you to a better future.”
For the Exodus 40 LIVE concert, Ziggy, Stephen and producer/bassist Don Was put together a revolutionary dream band featuring some of the titans of reggae, rock, blues, R&B and New Orleans funk, including Cyril Neville (of the famed Neville Brothers) on percussion, drummer Terence Higgins (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) Ranoy Gordon and Lamar “Riff Raff” Brown (longtime guitarist and keyboardist for Stephen Marley)organist Ray Angry (known for his work with Christina Aguilera and Ja Rule) and Peter Stroud (known for his work with Sheryl Crow and Don Henley) on lead guitar.
A movement of Jah people all right!
Exodus 40 Live, followed Tuff Gong Worldwide’s release of “Exodus: The Movement Continues…” a restatement reissue, 40th anniversary edition of Bob Marley & the Wailers classic. Old school reggae fans will be glad to know that this version is also available on vinyl and cassette at Urban Outfitters for $12.99.
As Ziggy and Stephen strolled onto the stage the audience rose to their feet and never sat down, standing and cheering through most of the concert. Really? Did anybody expect to sit and be quiet during a reggae show? There is something about good reggae music, Bob Marley’s music in particular, that just lifts you out of your seat.
Ziggy and Stephen announced that before they performed selections from “Exodus,” and brought out the night’s special guests, they would play versions of their father’s songs that were close to them. Stephen beautifully played hand drums, Nyabinghi style, while Ziggy sang lead on “Could You Be Loved,” followed by “Small Axe” and “War“ and “Redemption Song .”
“They say experience teaches wisdom, but there’s a natural mystic blowing through the air.”
The crowd cheered as the band began the hypnotic, one drop introduction to “Natural Mystic,” from “Exodus.”
Each artist on the Exodus 40 LIVE bill came with their own interpretation of Bob Marley’s music, some, smooth and charismatic like Aloe Blacc’s version of “Waiting in Vain,” some introspective, like Jim James version of “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” and some rage filled, of course, like Morello’s “Exodus” guitar solo.
In one poetic moment, Stephen stood behind Cyril Neville and played the electric guitar as Neville sang the lyrics of Bob Marley’s “Guiltiness” in his raspy, wisdom-soaked voice.
“Whoa to the downpressor/they’ll eat the bread of sad tomorrow.”
Decades before “Exodus” was produced, Jamaican artists drew inspirations from the New Orleans R&B and blues artists they heard on the radio, hence, the evolution of reggae music.
In another poetic moment, Stephen and Ziggy rocked their electric guitars as Citizen Cope, eyes closed, sang a soulful version of “Heathen.” complimented by the sensual backing vocals of Briana Lee and Maiya Skyes.
Like Michael Jackson, Bob Marley knew that you don’t take people, musically, through a state of crisis without leading them to an oasis, a state of grace and redemption. After Morello’s guitar solo, there were many songs celebrating the unifying aspect of reggae music, including Gary Clark, Jr.’s ebullient version of “No Woman, No Cry,” (which is not on the “Exodus” album but it’s a damn good song for an encore) and “One Love” and “Get Up, Stand Up,” performed by the all-star cast.
The Exodus 40 LIVE concert left you with an overwhelming message of hope, that every ‘ting may be all right after all.