These days, there are a crapload of classic rock bands who are a mockery of their former selves. There are countless bands out on the road, prostituting their name on a pure money grab, often touring without any original members. I was afraid I’d be in for more of the same when The Wailers played Velvet Sessions this week. I was totally wrong. The Wailers today are closely connected to the Wailers of 5 decades ago. They are reggae’s first family and on this sumptuous night, they delivered a legendary show for a sweaty, pulsating crowd at the cozy Hard Rock Hotel venue.
True that this is not the same band that toured with Bob Marley until his untimely death in 1981, but there are countless meaningful family connections. Foremost among them is that the band revolves around original bassist, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, and two longtime Wailers members who toured back in the Marley days, guitarists Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey. These three are rock/reggae royalty. And the family connections don’t end there. Barrett’s son Aston Barrett Jr is on drums, and cousin Josh David Barrett is the front man of the new lineup.
Josh is not Bob Marley and he does not try to be, but he put a beautiful spin on many of Marley’s classic hits. He’s also a deeply spiritual soul who easily bonded with the avid crowd. Marvin also assumed lead vocals on a handful of songs and delivered several shining moments himself.
Marvin is also a damn good guitarist who displayed a few searing, provocative leads during the evening. For most of the set, Kinsey settled in towards the back of the stage, but when he stepped forward, the music that he elicited from his guitar was magical. The Barretts, along with Owen “Dreadie” Reid were the glue that kept the set cohesive. And, in true Wailers fashion, we were treated to two angelic Sisters on background vocals.
The setlist itself was pristine, including a dozen or so Bob Marley and the Wailers songs, a handful of later Wailers tunes, and a couple that were penned by young Josh David Barrett. In the end, the appreciative Hard Rock Hotel crowd was treated to two hours of timeless reggae. I’ve attended dozens of Velvet Sessions over the years, and this one may be the best ever. It’s always an amazing deal for Orlando music lovers – great music, butlered appetizers and a pre-event cocktail party, band on this night, The Wailers kicked it up a notch.
An early highlight was “No Woman No Cry” which was kicked off by Javaughn Bond’s perfect Hammond Organ intro and a searing solo from Kinsey. The band also played a nice medley of “Three Little Birds” and “One Love” that had the crowd swaying and singing in harmony. It was a night of peace, love, harmony and appreciation of Rastafari enlightenment – and a night where the love from the stage passed onto those fortunate enough to be in the room.
The Wailers continue to Tour the world and are a can’t miss show for any rock or reggae fan – and next time they come to Orlando, perhaps I’ll see you there.
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Catch The Wailers in Florida this week
Apr 04 Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, FL
Apr 05 The SideBar Theatre, Tallahassee, FL
Apr 06 Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Apr 07 Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, FL
Apr 08 Sky 737 @ Magic City Casino, Miami, FL