Sunday, June 02, 2002

Reggae show doesn't need Marley stamp

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        In the 22 years since Bob Marley's death, no reggae musician has come close to crossing over the Jamaican sound as he did. In fact, Mr. Marley's spirit and legacy loom exponentially larger today than that of the profile of the genre of music he helped to internationalize. The Saturday-night reggae package show at Bogart's illustrated that.

        Taking a Bob Marley lyrical catch-phrase for its name, the One Love Festival had nothing to do with Mr. Marley and could have stood on its own merits, but like all-things-reggae, it needed the gratuitous reference.

        The tightly programmed 4 1/2-hour show featured a five-act lineup of roots and dancehall performers, finishing with two strong sets by one of the new stars of roots reggae, Luciano, and the headliner, one of the roots originators, Toots and the Maytals.

        Singer Toots Hibbert is arguably the greatest living Jamaican performer. He's certainly a world-class soul man, and his Otis Redding-goes-to-Kingston act is always a hit with a crowd. Confined to 75 minutes, Toots was compelled to squeeze in all the hits and not much else, and it sounded great.

        The set got off to a quick start with the one-two punch of “Sweet and Dandy” and “Pressure Drop,” the Maytals' two contributions to 1973's The Harder They Come soundtrack, which still stands as the greatest single-disc reggae compilation.

        Another back-to-back highlight was “Time Tough” and “Country Road.” Toots, decked out in a sleeveless black leather top with matching trousers, whipped up a double-time frenzy to cap off the first song; seconds later, he turned on a dime — sweetly humming and doing some wordless vocal fluttering as an intro to the John Denver cover.

        Luciano's 45-minute set was a continuous string of hits and was as well-received by the large crowd as the Maytals'.

        The duo of Tanto Metro and Devonte toasted to keyboard-heavy dancehall of a romantic bent, breaking down into a sing-off of classic R&B love-song snippets, from Mr. Redding's “These Arms of Mine” to Alicia Keys' “Fallin'.”

        Tony Rebel played an upbeat mix of roots and dancehall, while saxophonist Dean Fraser's marriage of deep dub rhythms and new-agey, Kenny G-ish melodies was a bit odd, to say the least.


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