The glittery California sun dipped down behind the famous Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, July 7, 2019, as Reggae Night XVII began. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, along with local public radio station KCRW, celebrated the 20th Anniversary of their World Festival, as excited fans filled the Bowl grounds early. Fans were picnicking on the open grass areas and finding their way to their seats to enjoy dinner, while sipping on wine, passing spliffs and hanging out with friends before the show.
The evening’s highly anticipated lineup, consisting of Jamaican revolutionary Kabaka Pyramid, 10-time GRAMMY-nominated Third World and four-time GRAMMY winner Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, brought out fans of all ages and sold out the night. Keeping fans entertained before the show and in between sets was local public radio KCRW’s DJ Garth Trinidad. Spinning fan-favorite songs, Trinidad kept the vibe of the evening flowing.
Third World showed the crowd their dynamic and multicultural musical roots.
First to the stage, bringing their fusion sound of rock, soul, R&B and reggae, was the legendary group and “Reggae Ambassadors” Third World. Taking the audience through a 45-year musical journey, the band played fan favorites like “Now That We Found Love” and “96 Degrees in the Shade”. The group also performed their new song “Loving You Is Easy” off their upcoming album, produced by Damian Marley, as the crowd danced along.
Third World showed the crowd their dynamic and multicultural musical roots. As drummer Tony “Ruption” Williams performed a captive solo on his djembe drum: dancing around the stage to interact with fans as his band members kept up behind him, accompanying on additional percussion instruments.
Co-founder Cat Coore played a beautiful classical version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on cello; as he said, “It’s an Italian show now!” Next was a tearjerking, goosebump-raising version of Shubert’s “Ave Maria” that brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation as he so flawlessly hit every note. The band surprised with a quick cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” before closing with their 1982 monster hit and crowd favorite, “Try Jah Love”, written by Stevie Wonder.
Surprising fans after travel difficulties and spending 20 hours traveling from Europe, Kabaka Pyramid took the stage by storm making his Hollywood Bowl debut. Having to shorten up his set, Pyramid performed a solid and powerful three songs from his first album Kontraband, also produced by Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. Pyramid showcased his talent for lyricism as well as social and political awareness by ending his set with “Well Done Mr. Politician Man”. As fans took to their feet cheering for Pyramid, he promised to be back soon with a full set.
Dancing around with dreads brushing his ankles, Damian encouraged the crowd to jump and wave their arms along to the music.
As the day cooled to night, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and his high-energy band brought to the stage his unique reggae/dancehall sound, raising ecstatic fans to their feet as “Confrontation” began playing. While clips of Haile Selassie played on the big screens, a flag bearer swinging the Ethiopian flag entered as the band launched into “Nail Pon Cross” and “Jr. Gong” entered the stage. Marley, touring in support of his 2017 GRAMMY Award-winning LP Stony Hill, asked the crowd, “How you feeling?!” The shout sent fans into a screaming frenzy as he launched into “More Justice”. Dancing around with dreads brushing his ankles, Damian encouraged the crowd to jump and wave their arms along to the music. Marley continued to please fans by playing favorites, like “Hey Girl”. The crowd loudly sang along.
“Jr. Gong” called out to the crowd, “Who here likes marijuana?”, identifying California as the epicenter of the cannabis revolution. The crowd cheered on as he launched into the single “Medication” which addresses medicinal cannabis.
Marley continued by paying a beautiful tribute to his father by playing moving renditions of “Rastaman Vibration”, “Exodus” and “Get Up Stand Up”, while photos of Bob played on the screens. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Damian Marley show without “Road to Zion” and “Welcome to Jamrock”. “Jr. Gong” did not disappoint. Marley’s band was on point, playing along perfectly with their fearless leader, keeping the crowd on their feet.
Be sure to catch up with “Jr. Gong” this summer! You will not be disappointed!