– ACADEMY 1, MANCHESTER –
The happiness that emanates from The Wailers is astounding; from Donald Kinsey’s forever beaming smile to 86-year-old Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson ambling on stage with the help of a walking stick and an arm to cheers, there is so much love for this band that to not smile may mean you’re a sociopath. Just saying. Honestly, for however long each member has been performing in this band, with some so much longer than others (here’s looking at you Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett), the joy that comes off each member is palpable, so much so I loved every second of basking in their joyous optimistic happiness. Just to watch, hear, witness even, Donald Kinsey and Junior Marvin rocking out with impressive guitar solos made me giddy and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Even the dubious Seeco guitar strumming is cheerfully wonderful – he’s out of time but who cares, he’s 86! Upon ‘Jamming’ everybody got to jamming, apart from, obviously, Seeco – from lead singer to band to crowd, this is what I’ve come to witness. Pure unadulterated energy.
I was accosted initially by a couple of women who shimmied me right to the front, to be practically on the stage. Almost. I was not too keen at first because I think I may have stolen somebody’s place – a mini fight happened to break out behind me, completely nothing to do with me, so it was worth it. The whole crowd, high in Friday night spirits, are here to revel in the glorious golden happiness of positivity. It’s Friday, it’s the end of the working week, if you’d have been anywhere else, I can’t imagine you’d have felt any happier than us right here. Okay, I’m going on and on about the euphoria, but it truly was bliss.
The best support was brought to us by By The Rivers, who held their own, before The (mighty) Wailers graced the night. Though at times more pop than reggae, the fun, cheerful nature of the band fitted in with the night’s theme of hopefulness, rhythm and joy. I couldn’t see how many of The Wailers’ other tour dates they would be attending, but they were a perfect fit and a great opener, providing the energy for the rest of the night. Catch them live, if not with The Wailers, just any chance you get.
I cannot claim to know a terrible lot about The Wailers, but I grew up listening to my brother blaring it out of his stereo from his room. And I mean literally blaring it, you could hear it halfway down the street. A bit like when Macauley Culkin blares out his music in Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ video. Completely like that. So, songs like the classics being performed tonight from the Legend album are stuck in my soul forever; ‘Is This Love’, ‘Buffalo Soldier’, ‘Stir It Up’, ‘No Woman, No Cry’, in fact all of them, the whole bloody awesome album, it’s a privilege to hear it live. And the best way to witness the legacy of the legend that is Bob Marley.
Many tracks, though originally written to ease tensions and empower the oppressed in their home country of Jamaica, are now held in the hearts of millions across the world as anthems against inequity. And they seem to be needed now more than ever, for their optimism that things will get better and their calming effect of sun-soaked shores and skies. Summer will nearly be upon us. And maybe, hopefully, one day we’ll all see a sunnier future. Though in the words of lead singer Josh Barrett you’ve “got to make your own happiness”. I couldn’t feel less Rasta if I tried, but what I take from the night, and the reggae rhythms, is to remain hopeful, even in the face of all evil. I have to leave early in order to catch my train, but I leave upon the song ‘Three Little Birds’, which I feel is felicitous, so just “Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright… This is my message to you”.