Damian and Stephen Marley

Paul Wellman

Damian and Stephen Marley

Review: Damian and Stephen Marley at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Reggae, Dancehall, and Rock Steady Reigned on Saturday, June 29

Some things are just meant to be. Ask virtually anyone who attended the Santa Barbara Bowl Saturday evening about their experience, and you can bet your last Sacagawea dollar that they will smile wide and offer something along the lines of, “Great show. Such good vibes.”

Saturday was a dictionary-definition hot summer day with an accordingly balmy night, and it provided a serendipitously sublime backdrop for reggae music to return to our beloved open-air amphitheater, providing a much-needed dose of good times in what has thus far been a lackluster Bowl season. An almost sold-out and mostly stoned audience of familiar faces was on hand to soak in the scene and be transported by the sounds of Bob Marley’s children and grandchildren (almost all of them decked out in head-to-toe denim) as they took to the stage that their late, great family patriarch so famously performed upon decades ago. From surprise performer Julian Marley and headliners Damian “Jr. Gong” and Stephen Marley to less advertised guests like Chris Ellis (son of rock-steady legend Alton Ellis) and Wayne Marshall, it was a full-spectrum reggae celebration, from roots music to dancehall stylings and beyond.

Really, the show had everything you would hope for from such a billing. There was the ever-present flag waver onstage; there were classically covered and impressively reimagined Bob tunes (see: Stephen’s soulful rendition of “Pimper’s Paradise” and the full-family jam-out of “Could You Be Loved”); there was a duo of female backup singers who brought soul and infectious energy; there were countless beautiful people in shockingly little clothing; and there was just the right amount of Stephen’s and Damian’s personal hits peppered throughout to ensure that the Marley family legacy continues to grow and live on.

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