"Legend" brought their live music tribute of Bob Marley to The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh for the first time tonight, and being a fan of Bob Marley and Reggae music since I was old enough to make my own musical choices, this one was firmly in the “have to see” calendar. There was, If I have to be honest, more than a little bit of trepidation though for me as Bob Marley and his music are special to me , and in the wrong hands, the music can easily become bad karaoke.
The first question here is, who are “Legend”. Well, from their website at http://www.legendlive.co.uk/welcome.html all questions are answered.
Legend are a band with a love of Reggae and obviously the music of Bob Marley consisting of
Michael: Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Elaine: Backing Vocals
Leonie: Backing Vocals
Alfonso: Lead Guitar
Are Legend the band capable of doing justice to the memory and the musical legacy of Bob Marley? A big question, and at the beginning it looked like a BIG NO for me as the sound from where I was sitting in the balcony seemed to be very bad and Michael’s vocals were getting drowned out by the band. For some reason (and it may have been the sight of a mainly middle aged and older white audience greeting them, or being the first time at this venue) the band seemed very nervous and almost apprehensive, taking a little while to loosen up into that classic reggae performance style. Thankfully, the sound issues were quickly sorted, Michael’s vocals audible and the band got well into the classic sounds of Bob Marley. That NO within a few songs changed into a YES for me.
As you would expect, the set list concentrated on all the big hits from the Bob Marley solo period after the Wailers had broken up and Bob Marley went on to become a major global recording artist and still, after all these years, the only global superstar that Reggae has ever had. For myself I would have loved some of the very early material with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer to have been in the set as their contributions to Bob Marley’s musical development cannot be under-estimated, but Legend gave the crowd here exactly what they came out to hear – classic songs that included amongst many others I Shot The Sheriff, Rat Race, One Love, Buffalo Soldiers, Three Little Birds, and of course the wonderful No Woman No Cry merging gospel, classical and reggae into something new and unique. My favourite for the whole set though was Michael and Alfonso performing a fine version of the amazing Redemption Song. With lyrics coming from many sources of inspiration and quotes from Marcus Garvey speeches this is, I think, my all time favourite Bob Marley song. It would be something special though (hint) to hear this one with just Michael’s vocals as to me Bob Marley was a poet and a writer firstly and a musician second (many will disagree with this statement I know). Bob Marley’s words had power, vision, and often uncomfortable truths in them (they still do) and this song needs only the power of those words for full effect.
Reggae is a deceptive musical form, as at its most basic level it can be very simple, but when you get to the level of musicianship of performers like Bob Marley and his band and many others, it hides behind the apparent simplicity a complex musical structure that plays with timing, backbeat, and harmony . Reggae lives and breathes by its rhythm and keeping that solid all night were Dave on Drums and Glen with some really good Bass lines.
A lot of the songs played tonight are on the classic “Babylon by Bus” album, but there were a few nice extras in the set – Kaya being one of them
Bob Marley had very specific religious and political beliefs, and these are the core of many of his songs if you take the listen to the lyrics. Some of the best known songs are in effect praises to “Jah” so perhaps a bit ironic in this former church that is The Queen’s Hall to have the audience dancing to some of these lyrics with the dire warnings from “Exodus” about worshipping other Gods in large letters as Biblical scripture is quoted on the other side of the wall.
At the end of the night, some great music, an audience obviously enjoying every song played, and everyone having a relaxed time.
Review by Tom King