A rare opportunity to experience reggae legends’ The Wailers occurred at Newport, Kentucky’s Southgate House on June 22. Bass player Aston “Family Man” Barrett still has those wicked improvisational chops that drove the band during their 1972-1974 peak as evidenced on the throbbing intro to “Heathen.” “Natural Mystic” was propelled by Anthony Watson’s strong command of the backbeat on drums. Audley Chisholm’s rhythm guitar scratches provided an essential layer to the Wailers’ overall sound, and he connected with Keith Sterling’s keyboard runs on “Concrete Jungle,” “Kinky Reggae” and “Soul Rebel.” The lead vocals were masterfully communicated through two singers, Koolant and Danglin, and their stage presence combined with the pulsating vibration that grooved inside the Southgate House added extra spice to “Kaya,” “Who the Cap Fit,” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” Maria Smith and Racquel Hinds handled the backing vocals throughout the night, and their harmonies shined brightly on “One Love” and “Three Little Birds.” The legacy of The Wailers is expansive, and it is impossible to fit all of their vast catalogue into one performance. But, Barrett’s strong bass lines, along with Watson’s riveting drum clinic, pushed Bob Marley’s anthems like “Jammin,” “Exodus,” and “Punky Reggae Party” to new heights. Koolant and Danglin demonstrated that Marley’s music is best served as a shared experience. And, as Chisolm sat on the edge of the Southgate House’s ballroom stage, plucking out the solo notes to “Redemption Song,” those on the floor sang the lyrics back to the stage in unison. It was a moving moment, one befitting of the deep musical roots and human rights connection that The Wailers made with every patron inside the Southgate House on a very warm June evening.
Photos are from The Wailers appearance at Spring Hookahville 2009