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
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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