The stage glowed, the floor shook, the smoke rose, and people were drenched in reggae vibrations. Ziggy Marley has graced the Monterey Bay Area stages in the recent past, included in the area’s annual Cali Roots Festival that takes place at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. But, this was his first performance at the newly opened and stage expanding Golden State Theatre in downtown Monterey. This historical theatre has been around since the late 1900’s, and I’m sure has never hoasted a show quite like this one.
Starting about 30 minutes later than announced (I suppose they were on reggae time!), they opened up with a purely lively, “Better Together,” from Marley’s recent self titled album, Ziggy Marley (2016). For nearly two hours (10 minutes shy), Marley generated that love vibration, dancing and singing, getting the crowd to their feet. His two back up singers exuded pure joy as they sang, danced and connected to each other, Marley, and the audience. The whole band was tuned in, enthusiastic at every turn, driving the music far beyond the lyrics. You could feel it, that true happiness, coming from the stage.
From that light and happy dancehall to to the deep rhythmic beats of songs like, “Personal Revolution,” when they cranked that bass up about ten notches and made my world vibrate, Ziggy Marley and the band gave it their all. Bringing back songs created in his early days, such as, “Conscious Party,” “Tomorrow People,” and “Look Who’s Dancing;” to hits from mid-career like, “Wild and Free,” “Personal Revolution,” “Reggae in My Head,” and “Love is My Religion;” to a handful of new tunes from his newest release out earlier this year.
Speaking to the crowd about consciousness, world issues, religion and politics, he talked about how living in community and love in your heart can lead to overcoming the issues we face now and into the future if we don’t do anything about it. Playing another from his latest self-titled release, “Butterflies,” has a slow, sticky beat and a smooth deep groove added to the serious sentiments he was sharing. Marley inspires, “We must live on, like butterflies…” To some cultures, the butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color; a miracle of transformation and resurrection. He spoke again before playing, “We Are the People,” a song that is inspired by the present and violent conditions of the world today. Repeating his strong ideals that politics must not define or divide us. “Don’t let them tell us who we are; we know who we are! We are the people and together we are strong. Stronger than one race! Stronger than one faith! Those who divide us know that. They don’t want us to be strong.”
That slow sticky didn’t last much past the last note, as they move into a lively, more dancehall sound with, “Black Cat.” They lyrics are simple, the meaning maybe not so deep, but it sure got everyone moving, and almost generated a dance off on stage! The lyrics also reminded me of a friend who’s got one cute black cat who doesn’t necessarily have many humans afraid of him, but the reverse is certainly true!
While many of his songs are filled with lyrics surrounding love and acceptance or political and cultural issues, the music behind it is full of abandon, raw energy, electrified pulses, and the kind of rhythm that sticks to your step for hours, days, even weeks later. And then he’s got the songs that stick in your head, both rhythmically and lyrically – like, “Reggae in My Head,” (“…she played it all night long. She brought me from defeat hypnotized by the beat, on the rocks I made my bed, she played reggae in my head…”), and “Love is My Religion,” (“…Well I’m done searching now, I found out what this life is worth. Not in the books that I find, but by searching my mind. I don’t condemn, I don’t convert. This is the calling have you heard? Bring all the lovers to the fold, no one is gonna lose their soul….”) – it’s almost like we got this one two ways… Well, because we did. Right after rocking out the funky reggae, he plays this acoustically, so softly, just the guitar with a gentle supportive beat for the lyrics to ride. Everyone was feeling that jubilation. Yes! Love IS my religion!
At times, Marley brought back the spirit of his father, putting his own style to songs like, “One Love,” which really got people up on their feet, from the main floor to the balcony. The whole place was singing along in thanks and praise, feeling more than alright. Marley also looked back on, “Is This Love,” another that brought the crowd a bit of nostalgic joy as it seemed as though EVERYONE sang with him.
Closing out their long set with, “Look Who’s Dancing,” appearing on One Bright Day, released back in 1989. A very deeply rhythmic and danceable (of course!) reggae vibe boomed out from the stage and drew people down from the balcony to the main floor to feel the energy. The place was up on their feet, you could feel the vibe all around. I look up to the stage, peeking through the bopping heads in front of me and see Ziggy and his two singers jumping and dancing along with the crowd, just egging on everyone’s energy to get higher and higher! You couldn’t help but join in and smile back at the stage even bigger than the stage was smiling at you. (I can say that one of the lovely ladies is Tracy Hazzard, but the other…. Ugh, I wish I new her name. I don’t think it’s Chantelle Ernandez as all of the internet searches would point me, as she looks different to me. IF I find out her name, I will amend this article….)
Taking only about a three minute break after the set closer, a well deserved break and, well, just enough of a break tease to make us wait for it…… Back out on the stage they come to loud cheers and stomps from the audience, and play a three song encore, starting with, “True to Myself,” off the Dragonfly release (2003). Changing the musical mood from light-hearted to a much deeper beat with, “Justice,” a one-word cry about liberty. “Justice, justice, the one word prayer. Justice, whoa yea, justice. The poor man cry, why do they do the wrong. Justice, they make me sing this song….” Out of this came a sweet little montage of his father’s similarly themed songs, moving almost seemlessly into, “Get Up Stand Up” to “War” back into, “Get Up Stand Up” that melded into a, “whoa yo!” “whoa yo-yo-yo!” back and forth between Ziggy and the crowd before bringing it back to the refrain. Giving us just one more from his latest name-sake release, “Weekend’s Long,” ended the show on a more upbeat, caribbean or calypso sound with that most recognizable steel drum timbre and harmonic overtones. You know it. That sound that makes you feel like you are on vacation somewhere warm and breezy, with a tropical drink in your hand. Once you hear it, you are transported to that sunny place, which is more likely than not a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. “I found a place where the weekend’s long. Don’t check no luggage, just carry on. Leave the sorrows indoctrinated, cause now we are emancipated…”
I’ve been to the Golden State Theatre for more than a handful of shows since its new ownership in 2012, and this was one of those shows that folks in attendance won’t soon forget. Seriously, put that reggae in my head for dayz…… And I’m sure for weeks to come…..
Better Together (2016)
Wild and Free (2011)
Personal Revolution (2011)
Start it Up (2016)
Reggae in My Head (2011)
One Love (Bob Marley)
Conscious Party (1988)
Tomorrow People (1988)
Black Cat (2007)
Love is My Religion (2007)
We Are the People (2016)
Is This Love (Bob Marley)
Look Who’s Dancing (1989)
Encore: True to Myself, Justice>Get Up Stand Up>War>Get Up Stand Up, Weekend’s Long