Review | The Wailers | Amsterdam

Words by: Todd Snelgrove

The Wailers :: 11.27.13 :: The Melkweg :: Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Wailers injected an old-school flavor into the 26th annual High Times Cannabis Cup this week in Amsterdam with their invite-only performance at The Melkweg in the city’s picturesque Leidseplein area.

Hardly an intimate affair, the concert was presented as part of High Times' annual marijuana competition and trade show. For five nights convention-goers, aka “judges," are treated to exclusive live entertainment events sponsored by one of the competing seed companies, with Wednesday night’s show hosted by Apothecary Genetics.

In a festival inundated with hip-hop and EDM a night of classic reggae offered a welcome change, and for many of the approximately 900 in attendance the concept of matching an iconic act like The Wailers with their unmistakable connection to worldwide pot culture at the Cannabis Cup was a no-brainer. And for the band to be able to step from the wings and meet an audience freely and openly smoking enormous joints rolled with some of the best marijuana cultivated on the planet, it just sounds like a gig that couldn’t miss on paper.

In reality however, it did miss, with The Wailers delivering a half-hearted performance to a crowd perhaps too self-medicated to hold up their end of the energy. So much more than just an offbeat guitar chunking away, reggae is an intricate and delicate exercise in syncopation and while The Wailers are unquestionable in their ability to bob and weave their way through some of the greatest hits of the genre, their uninspired delivery and Marley lookalike at the mic places them firmly in the category of "tribute act," even if their tenuous connection to reggae’s finest suggests otherwise.

Four songs into the set the band managed to get even the oldest hippies moving with "Buffalo Soldier," the first in a string of ubiquitous Bob Marley hits, though even back- to-back crowd-pleasers like "Get Up, Stand Up," "I Shot The Sheriff" and "Is This Love" failed to build any real momentum.

However it’s not like anyone left the room unhappy. Though one would likely find a more energetic and perhaps even more authentic tribute to Bob Marley’s legacy through any number of his children’s bands, the expectant crowd at Melkweg on Wednesday night was itching for the hits. The Wailers supplied them, until even an extended and decidedly flat performance of the set-ending "No Woman, No Cry" elicited warm appreciation, though it almost seemed like the applause was directed more at the song than the singers.

After an articulated encore that kicked off with a singalong version of "Redemption Song" followed by a pleasant romp through that most hopeful of pop songs, "Three Little Birds," The Wailers had one last chance with "Exodus," a true Marley anthem of vitality and energy. Alas, it was just another excuse for the crowd to enjoy the work of a man long gone from this world at the hands of a band utterly unable to recapture his spirit.

But really, all this mattered little to the judges filtering out of the club exchanging glassy-eyed high-fives. They are here to vote on the greatest pot of the year and these daily concerts are merely peripheral to the main purpose; icing on the cake. Great show or not, they had, after all, just seen the world’s most famous reggae band in Amsterdam at the Cannabis Cup, and really, what could be headier?

Now, where to find more of that Rollex OG Kush?

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[Published on: 11/30/13]

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