House of Blues
It’s been over a decade since Damien Marley (aka Jr. Gong) the youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, released his last last solo album, Welcome to Jamrock. But after some postponing, his 18-track, Stony Hill album was finally released on July 21.
In support of his new music, a Stony Hill Fall Tour was created and thankfully, Orange County was included as fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Thursday (Oct. 19) at the Anaheim House of Blues to see Marley perform these songs live, some for the first time.
Kabaka Pyramid, the night’s opening act, was behind schedule and didn’t start his set until almost nine, but the way he handled the stage and controlled the crowd was worth the wait. The hip-hop influence was noticeable in his music as he spit reggae like a west coast rapper would.
According to HOB’s staff, Marley was scheduled to start his set at 9:15 p.m., however it wasn’t until after 10 p.m. that the audience actually saw his face. Dressed casually in a black button up and jeans with dreads only inches from the floor, he stepped on the stage with the mic in hand and that was it. The cheers from the crowd were loud enough to vibrate through the walls.
Marley performed “Living It Up,” “So a Child May Follow” and a dozen other songs from his new album, but didn’t fail to please the crowd with classic gems “Welcome to Jamrock” and “Road to Zion." To fans that have been following the Marleys since Bob, watching Jr. Gong sing his father’s song, “This is Love,” with so much heart, likely brought back good memories of him to everyone listening.
His heart-warming performance allowed for the perfect time to talk about Jamrock. This is a place that’s advertised as tropical, amazing and beautiful, but according to Marley is actually overwhelmed with poverty, crime and political corruption. Perhaps he shared that information with the audience in an effort to educate and help listeners further understand his music.
It was hard to understand some of his words because of his heavy Jamaican accent, so he asked, “ya unda stan wat I’m sayin’?” a couple times and the immediate response from the crowd showed no confusion. In fact, when he called on the fans, turning his ear or mic to them, they sang the lyrics perfectly, putting a smile on the artist’s face.
Anyone fortunate to be in the upstairs VIP section had a wide view of the stage, but HOB recently added flat screen TVs for those wanting a detailed look at the performances. From the elevated angle, people were able to watch the show in a panoramic setting, allowing for a different perspective of the show and the jumping fans as they waved their hands back in forth in unison to “Stony Hill” tracks.
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Chali 2na, a member of Jurassic 5, joined Marley during his “Road to Zion” set, incorporating his own verse into the song and causing a roar of approval when he said, “fuck Donald Trump” just before the chorus dropped again.
That extra element may have been one of the reasons for Marley’s encore. It doesn’t happen like it does in the movies, when people chant “encore, encore” and the artist returns to the stage. This was a steady stream of cheers that didn’t cease until he came back out, three more times.
It was a little strange, though, the fans didn’t even move when it seemed like the night was over, they just kept screaming for him, maybe it’s the those dreads grabbing attention as they swing behind Marley while he dances or the guy whose sole job is to wave the Rastafarian flag, whatever it was, was dope AF.
Although, close to perfection, my only complaint is the venue, before you can get a session started, some HOB employee is tapping you on the shoulder, “umm, you can’t have that in here.” At a Damian Marley show, no marijuana allowed? Absurd.