The Original Wailers
August 28, 2010
Getting to see The Original Wailers (T.O.W.) is always a pleasure and a fascinating time, but even more so when discovering what they had in store for this tour. There is a lot of fresh material if you catch a live show that provides a glimpse into the soon-to-be-titled album, slated for release around Bob Marley’s birthday in February of 2011. On this night, The Original Wailers found themselves in Bloomington, Illinois, a college town full of youngsters.
Al Anderson really pumps up these new songs; in speaking with him earlier in the evening, he admitted as much when referring to his guitar work by stating, "We really pumped steroids into these songs."
Members of T.O.W consist of leaders and "Original Wailers" Al Anderson and Junior Marvin on lead guitar/rhythm & vocals, Desi Hyson on keyboard/organ & vocals, Erica Newell providing backup vocals, Steve Samuels on bass, Paapa Nyarkoh on drums, keyboardist Martin "Marty" Batista, plus the legendary engineer Karl Pitterson.
"Natty Dread" and "Positive Vibration" started off the set and reminded the audience of exactly what type of music and message they were going to receive. This prepared the crowd for a more serious message, Haile Selassie’s speech to the U.N. in 1963, which Bob Marley turned into "War." Anytime "War" is played live, the Wailers tie in "No More Trouble." This combination makes for one killer bass line. "Stir It Up" & "Forever Loving Jah" put the people in a swaying mood.
As the moon started to shine, the clouds that hung around during the sunset dispersed and gave way to a dark blue and clear night. Junior Marvin performed an original tune with "Solution" and did so with the invitation to the crowd to take off their shoes and dance.
With an introduction from Desi that reminded the crowd that "…the Lord knows only what Earth they’re going to inherit after we’re gone," the band launched into "We Are the Children." Later Desi would ask the audience if they could "feel the fire?" The audience responded with a rapturous, "Yeah!"
Later in the evening, the Wailers shared a song that was written for the BP company, with their promise not to pollute the waters in mind. "Backsliders" is a Caribbean expression for someone who reneges on a promise, as Desi Hyson explained during a previous performance, stating "You aren’t supposed to reach the gates of Mount Zion and turn around and go back to Babylon." The backing vocals of Al and Junior saying "turn back" add an eerie-dread-roots aspect to the track that really fit the rhythm. The thought of Bob’s approval was present in this dub-heavy rendition, added to extend everyone’s jamming.
The crowd was anticipating an encore and after a few moments the band rejoined the stage as Anderson introduced the band. "Exodus" was the apt finale of the evening and with this tune, the band went out with a bang. The bang was caused in no short part by the rhythmic and intense drum solo by Ghana-born Paapa Nyarkoh. Al joined in by searing out a near-fifteen minute jam that oddly had an almost Southern rock sound, but it worked.
In commenting on the performance afterward, Junior Marvin spoke to how every live performance is different, whether it’s an alternate beginning to a song or a different effect on the guitars.
"If you’re an artist and you paint a picture, you’re not going to paint it the same way as you did the day before. You might add a different color here or a brush stroke there," Junior simply stated.
Whatever it is, it is exciting and new. Simply put, it’s original. As their new composition "Backsliders" suggests, The Original Wailers show no signs of turning back.
Click the thumbnail to view more photos By Julie Collins & Rose Mountain Photo