Like his half-brother Stephen, reggae/dancehall artist Damian Marley emulates blues musicians such as the late B.B. King in terms of how to make an entrance. First, his band took to the stage before him, to play an instrumental version of Bob Marley’s “Sun Is Shining.” The group includes Damian’s longtime collaborator Shiah Coore on bass.
Like Damian, Shiah is a second-generation reggae musician with an impeccable pedigree: his father is legendary guitarist “Cat” Coore of the group Third World. Also in Damian’s band is one of his brother Stephen’s musicians, guitarist Ranoy Gordon.
At the end of the instrumental, longtime Marley M.C. Sky High came onstage, dressed in a suit of many colours, to announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present to you, all the way from Kingston, Jamaica… Damian ‘Jr. Gong Zilla’ Marley!”
Even with an introduction worthy of a boxing match, Damian still didn’t take to the stage, leaving it to his band and backup singers (Roslyn Williams and Nikki Burt) to perform “Confrontation”, a track recorded with Bunny Wailer for his hit album Welcome to Jamrock.
[Island Stage photos above by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
Then as the band started playing “Mek It Bun Dem”, a recording collaboration with DJ Skrillex, Damian could be heard doing the toasting intro offstage. Finally he came into view, accompanied by a dread flag-bearer whipping around a flag with the colours and crest of the Rastafarian religion. This energetic flag-bearer would keep up his frenetic activity for the entire show.
Like SOJA before him, Damian made good use of the catwalk, striding its length with his ankle-dreads waving behind, as the band accompanied him for “More Justice.” But no stage-diving for this Reggae star; Damian was simply using the catwalk to get a little closer to his fans, who had turned out in full force despite the late afternoon heat.
Just about all of Damian’s albums were represented in his set: Mr. Marley (“Trouble”); Halfway Tree (“It Was Written”); Distant Relatives, the collaboration with his 2010 SunFest partner, rapper Nas, ( “Land of Promise”, “Patience”); the compilation Set Up Shop Vol. 1 (title track, “Affairs of the Heart”); and the aforementioned Welcome to Jamrock (“Hey Girl”, “Beautiful”, and the “Exodus”-inspired “Move!”, amongst others). Of course, Damian’s father’s material was also represented, with covers of “War/No More Trouble” and “Could You Be Loved” at the end of the regular set. For Damian’s combination of the Bob Marley hit and his own hidden-track version from Half Way Tree, he was joined onstage by his young son Elijah. Damian kicked off his encore with another Bob Marley/Peter Tosh classic, “Get Up, Stand Up.” Even people outside the SunFest gates could be seen jamming to it. Damian ended with his best-known song, the dancehall hit “Welcome To Jamrock.”