Jamaica 50 Festival: Damian, Stephen x Julian Marley at IndigO2, London | Live Review


The lineup assembled to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence reads like a Reggae hall of fame. An abundance of legendary names past and present from Jamaica’s rich musical heritage are spread over 12 nights of performances celebrating the Caribbean Island’s influence on the music world. One such name was always likely to loom larger than most on the lineup, and its no surprise that Damian, Stephen and Julian Marley were given top billing with this, the first of a two-night stand at the O2 Indigo (26th July).

After three serviceable supporting acts, a growing sense of impatience can be felt among the sold-out crowd as the clock passes 10:30 with still no sign of the Marleys. Soon enough — much to the relief of everyone — Damian Marley and all 5-feet 10-inches of his thick dreadlocks enter the stage to a hero’s welcome. Backed by the same band that played with the supporting acts, he wastes no time in whipping the crowd into frenzy with energetic performances of material from his Welcome To Jamrock and Distant Relatives albums. As the youngest and most recognizable of the Marley sons, Damian oozes onstage charisma and has grown into an accomplished all-around performer and it’s easy to see why everyone from Nas to Mick Jagger has sought his talents for recent collaborations.

It wasn’t long before Damian was joined by probably the least-known Marley son. Although the reception that greeted Julian’s arrival couldn’t be described as rapturous, and the omnipresent camera phones dominant at modern day gigs suddenly disappeared, the quality of his short set shone through. Performing tracks from his recent, underrated, roots-tinged album Awake with assists from Damian and Stephen, he won the crowd over before passing the baton to Stephen as the Marley music relay race entered its final leg.

The camera phones pop up back up as Stephen takes centre stage, suggesting his popularity is on the rise after the release of his last two solid albums. At this point, the night goes into celebratory mode. Good vibes flowed back and forth between the crowd and stage, as the three brothers laughed & joked onstage like a live family reunion. Anthems such as the bass-heavy “Jah Army,” the remake of Bob’s classic “Pimpa’s Paradise” and a rousing version of “The Traffic Jam” send the party into overdrive and mark the evening’s high point.

Two hours fly by and the audience’s attention turns towards “oh shit the last tube has gone, how are we getting home?” Despite the concerns, no one leaves, as Damian’s call to arms “Welcome To Jamrock” is still to be aired.

The encore duly delivers said tune with extra relish, with a joyous mass sing-along of “Could You Be Loved” bringing the night’s proceedings to a triumphant and fitting end.

[Photos via Facebook]