Riot Fest was just one of many stops on the Catch A Fire Tour, featuring the reggae sounds of Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage, Jimmy Cliff, Stephen Marley & the Ghetto Youths Crew, and Damian Marley – all backed by their full bands. The tour, named after Bob Marley & The Wailers’ fifth studio album, is a celebration honoring Bob Marley’s 70th birthday. For the reggae heads, a day of engaging with and enjoying stellar reggae music from legends was the perfect end to Riot Fest.
Both Tarrus Riley and Morgan Heritage paid tribute to the reggae artists that paved the way for them at the halfway point of each of their hour-long sets, including Peter Tosh, Third World and Gregory Isaacs. Both Stephen and Damian Marley paid homage to their late father during their respective performances, as they always do, as their way of carrying on his legacy.
Tarrus Riley, son of reggae artist Jimmy Riley, has been in the music business for a little over ten years, and his opening set on Sunday is indicative of the successful future he has in reggae music. Riley performed some of his older music as well as some of his newer music and one can see, from his performance, that he is passionate about what he does. One of the highlights of his show was his tribute to and impersonation of dancehall and reggae musician, Buju Banton.
Although performing without sister and band member, Una Morgan, Morgan Heritage took the stage following Tarrus Riley and through their music, reminded fans as to why they were fans of “the Royal Family of Reggae” to begin with. Having been in the business for over twenty years, Morgan Heritage have amassed quite a musical catalogue and during their hour-long set, they entertained attendees with songs both old (like “Tell Me How Come”) and new (music from their new album Strictly Roots). Their vocals meshed well with their instruments, neither one drowning out the other, and they appeared to genuinely have fun onstage and with their audience.
With his smooth vocals and demeanor, Stephen “Ragga” Marley played a very memorable set, which included guest performances from his eldest son, Jo Mersa Marley and his nephew, Skip Marley – both of whom are a part of the Ghetto Youths Crew and are continuing the Marley family legacy of making meaningful music. His hour and a half set included many of his original songs like, “No Cigarette Smoking” and “Break Us Apart”, as well as his father’s iconic music: “Lively Up Yourself” and “Pale Moonlight (How Many Times)”. For those fans yearning for a performance from Bob Marley & The Wailers, this was as close as they would get.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Jimmy Cliff was the penultimate performer whose set began with his band members beating songs on African drums, before the 67-year-old took the stage for what was to be an electrifying show. With upbeat songs like, “I Can See Clearly Now”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “The Harder They Come”, it was hard for the crowd not to dance along with Cliff (who has quite the dance moves). Cliff was fun to watch and he was just as excited to see the fans having a good time, as they were to see him. Cliff sang with passion and excitement, while moonwalking and air kicking all over the stage for the duration of his hour-long performance.
Closing out the Catch A Fire Tour’s Riot Fest stop was the youngest son of Bob Marley, Damian Marley. Anyone who has ever seen the youngest Marley perform live knows that they are in for an incredible treat, as the Jamrock singer and his band always put on amazing show. With visuals that were nothing short of amazing, Marley kept the crowd engaged with his strong stage presence, backup singers (who were also background dancers) and the sound of his notable voice singing and rapping some of the most meaningful lyrics over recognizable and remixed beats. The crowd sang along as Marley sang, in their entirety, some of his greatest songs: “Ghetto Youths” and “Love & Unity”. And like his older brother, Stephen, Marley paid tribute to his father, with his own renditions of “War/No More Trouble” and “Exodus”. Halfway through the hour and a half performance, Marley was joined by his brother Stephen and the two Marley brothers commenced their joint set, which lasted for about 15 minutes. The joint set concluded with Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage, Jo Mersa, and Skip Marley joining the brothers onstage for an impressive group performance of “Could You Be Loved”. Marley closed his performance with “Road To Zion” and “Welcome To Jamrock”, just as artists had completed a life-sized portrait of Bob Marley to the left of the stage.
Nothing negative can be said about what took place on the Roots Stage on Sunday. Bob Marley would have been proud.
photo by Kris Lori Fuentes Cortes