Though an impressive lineup of artists — including Morgan Heritage, Tarrus Riley, Black Am I, and Jo Mersa — performed at the Santa Barbara Bowl’s Catch A Fire Tour show on Friday, September 25th, as soon as headliner Damian Marley emerged, he made it unmistakably clear that he owned the stage for the night.
The venue seemed to settle temporarily when Damian’s older brother Stephen played a touching tribute to their late father Bob Marley with “Three Little Birds,” but the Bowl quickly revved back up when the main act came bouncing out to his 2012 hit “Make It Bun Dem,” a collaborative single with EDM producer Skrillex.
His musical assault on the audience’s eardrums lasted a little over an hour, but by the end of the night, even Damian’s floor-length dreadlocks hung tired and eager for a respite. Despite being the youngest of the second-generation Marley offspring, his genre-warping knack for innovation and relentless energy provided a welcome change-up to the opening acts’ run-of-the-mill reggae.
The Bowl show and encompassing tour have served as a commemoration to what would have been Bob Marley’s 70th year of life. It has been 35 years since the Jamaican legend last performed live, but his descendants have definitively gone the extra mile to honor his legacy with their sustained success and ambition.
Towards the end of his set, Damian briefly brought back all the openers to share the stage once more before closing the night with his 2005 singles “Road to Zion” and “Welcome to Jamrock.” As a true master of ceremonies, he relinquished the spotlight at choice moments to allow the crowd to experience all the nuances and varieties of reggae music.
Regardless of whoever was holding the microphone at various points throughout the evening, there was an undeniable sense of unity from artist to artist, and you could tell that Bob Marley’s lingering prestige was present. Just before his final song, Damian gave us a few words of warm counsel.
“The road to Zion is full of trials and tribulations, we already know,” said the 37-year-old multiple Grammy winner. “Continue to take care of yourselves and take care of each other.”