Fillmore Theatre, San Francisco Sept 5, 2019
Article by Shelah Moody
Featured cover photo by Rock N’ Robins
Police, beggers and thieves patrol Geary Street in front of the Fillmore theatre in San Francisco. It is a scene straight out of what Rastas call Babylon, this neighborhood has been afflicted by systems of oppression: corporate greed, gentrification, crime, homelessness and drug abuse.
Like many streets in San Francisco, 1801 Geary Street is a contradiction between dispair and opulence. It is also home of one of Live Nation’s toniest venues, where the legends—Hendrix, Grateful Dead and Bob Marley played.
On the night of a vibrant autumn moon, the son and grandchildren of Bob Marley bring messages of hope to the Fillmore via Stephen Marley’s acclaimed Babylon by Bus tour.
Inside the posh Fillmore palace, the party begins as DJ Shacia Payne (Stephen Marley’s daughter) spins conscious reggae tracks, including “Sensimillia” by Collie Buddz and “Smoke Herb” by Bounty Killer, on stage.
After a brief interlude, Marley’s all star band, featuring Ranoy Gordon on lead guitar, Squidly Cole on drums, Lamar Brown and Bowie McLaughlin on keyboards, Jevaghn Bond on bass, Nicholas Laraque on sax and flute and Rica Newell and Rochelle Bradshaw on harmony vocals, bless the stage with an Ethiopia inspired anthem.
Next, Stephen Marley’s son, singer/songwriter Jo Mersa takes the spotlight, performing his original compositions, “Sunshine” and “Comfortable” as well as a tribute to dancehall Kong’s Super Cat, Shabba Ranks and Yellowman.
Eight time Grammy winner Stephen “Ragga” Marley must know that the Fillmore neighborhood, and the nation as a whole, is in need of healing. You can tell by his set list: Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic,” Stir it Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Jammin” along with original songs “Can’t Keep I Down,” “Iron Bars,” “Rock Stone,” “One Good Spliff” “Medication” and “Revelation Dance Party.” Ragga plays the electric guitar and sings in his signature raspy soothing Marley tone. A surprise on this show is a cover of Stevie Wonder’s eighties “Master Blaster.”
“Everyone’s feeling pretty/It’s hotter than July/Though the worlds full of problems/They couldn’t touch us if they tried/From the park I hear rhythms/Marley’s not on the box/Tonight there will be a party/At the corner at the end of the block…”
“Did you know that you will be jamming until the end of dawn?” Ragga asks.
Another proverbial question that Marley asks via his iconic father on stage is “Could You Be Loved?” The show’s finale is a Tuff Gong revue that brings Jo Mersa and Ragga’s daughter, Mystic Marley to the stage. If your answer is yes, then you have been healed. For the night at least. Thanks Ragga!
Stephen Marley says that he was either named after music icon Stevie Wonder or Stephen from the Bible. He says the Motown legend often tells him, “You were named after me”