The Wailers at O2 Academy (7 March ’18)


Some real reggae legends featured when I went to see The Wailers at the O2 Academy.

Obviously, Bob Marley is no longer part of the line-up (having died in 1981!), but there are still four of his band left in this outfit. Bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett played on pretty much all of Marley’s records, as well as classic Augustus Pablo and Burning Spear albums.

Junior Marvin

Guitarist Junior Marvin joined Marley in 1977, playing on the last four studio LPs before his death.

Donald Kinsey on guitar had a much more peripheral involvement, playing on two tracks on 1976’s Rastaman Vibration. This was the first album to feature keyboardist Tyrone Downie, who stayed with Marley for the rest of his career.

A lot of the vocals were taken by Josh Barrett (no relation), while the band also included Family Man’s son Aston Barrett, Jr. on drums, and a pair of female backing singers, the modern-day I Threes (or rather Twos…).

I’ve been a fan of Marley’s music for many years, first hearing his music in the mid-1980’s, probably when Buffalo Soldier became a posthumous #4 hit in 1983. I bought my first of his albums in 1991, 1977’s classic Exodus.

I added a few more of his albums over the next decade, taking me to seven studio records and two live albums, although I’m still missing a few of his pre-fame releases.

The Wailers

Anyway, back to the start of the evening, when I just had enough time to call into the temporarily-under-threat Lion Tavern for a pint of PeerlessLangton Spin, and some top-notch music on the jukebox, including Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.

I found out later that I had missed an entire support act, reggae singer Jeremiah Ferrari, arriving during Common Kings’ set.

Common Kings

The California-based trio were a mix of reggae and hip hop, that (no doubt unwittingly) reminded me of Peter Andre at first.

Lost Paradise featured a rather unnecessary guitar solo, with the music in general being perfectly pleasant, if not really my thing. They put on a thoroughly professional show as they mixed rock music in with their reggae/hip hop base.

Their last song was the hit-in-waiting No Other Love, as they successfully warmed up the crowd for the main event, bigging up The Wailers at several points in their set.

Between-band music was a variety of reggae songs that were largely unknown to me, before The Wailers came out on stage.

After a brief Irie, they kicked things off properly with Positive Vibration, the opening cut off 1976’s Rastaman Vibration, a mellow start to proceedings.

Junior Marvin, Donald Kinsey & Josh Barrett

Junior Marvin took over lead vocals for the first of many times for the classic I Shot The Sheriff. The show had been billed as the band “performing their iconic Legend album in its entirety” (the 1984 best of that is the best-selling reggae album ever), but they instead played a mix of Marley music, although this did inevitably include much of that record.

However, they didn’t play four of the fourteen tracks off Legend, including Stir It Up and Waiting In Vain.

Basically, every track they played was a great song, with the vocals being shared around at times – Tyrone Downie took on Exodus album track The Heathen, probably the most obscure cut they played.

The Wailers

After No Woman, No Cry, Junior Marvin revealed (to the crowd, and seemingly to much of the band too!) that he had appeared in The BeatlesHelp! film when he was just twelve years old.

The hits kept on coming, with Marley’s biggest US hit Roots, Rock, Reggae followed by the much sweeter Three Little Birds.

The set drew to a close with some lesser known material in My Friend off Majestic Warriors, a 1991 album credited to The Wailers Band, and then Johnny B. Goode sung by Donald Kinsey.

Tyrone Downie, Donald Kinsey & Junior Marvin

The final song before the band left the stage was the party-time Jamming. Junior was first to return for the encore, as the rest of the line-up slowly joined him.

Three more timeless tunes were rolled out in the form of Could You Be Loved, Get Up Stand Up, and then finally the majestic Exodus to complete a great evening of fun but righteous reggae.

The crowd around me was bang up for the night, with a ridiculously excessive bouncing person right in front of me fortunately moving on after a few songs, while there were plenty of less than entirely legal odours in the air, even if Josh Barrett was unable to detect them.

Tonight’s t-shirt

It was a no-brainer to wear my green Trojan Records t-shirt to this gig. I spied a few Bob Marley tees, and a surprise Lamb Of God one.

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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify:


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