Words by: Nick Krkles | Images by: Julie Collins
Julian Marley feat. Stephen Marley :: 10.23.09 :: The Wild Hare :: Chicago, IL
Awake, Julian Marley's latest album released earlier this year is a great example of him stepping out from the Marley Brothers fold and into his own musical identity. Not to say that Julian didn't work with his brothers during the making of this album; Stephen, Damian, and Ziggy play and offer production touches throughout, but Julian has grown vastly in his songwriting capabilities by crafting material that is roots-oriented and echoes back to the days of his father's music. Nowhere was this evolution more visible than when Julian came to The Wild Hare reggae club as he passed through Chicago on a six week tour alongside his brother Stephen Marley.
It was a rainy, chilly, Friday evening and The Wild Hare was packed to the gills. A banner with the cover of Awake hung as the stage backdrop. The Uprising Band came onstage without an introduction and started off with the "Slow Motion" riddim, which was the intro chant during Bob Marley's final tour in 1980. Once the MC came on and introduced Julian, the first song of the evening was "Babylon Cookie Jar," followed by the rootsy title track from Julian's 1996 debut, Lion In The Morning.
As the setlist went deeper and more people crammed up to the front of the stage, Julian spoke to the audience about a few new tracks on the Awake album. We were all invited to dance "On The Floor," where everyone was grooving in their own way. We also heard the old Montego Bay tale of a white witch in Julian's temptress tale "Rose Hall." "Boom Draw," one of the standout songs on the new album, was a heavy reggae/dancehall equivalent to Damian Marley's "Welcome To Jamrock." Like "Jamrock," the song is a conscious Rastaman's homage to the sacramental herb, explaining the association of a Rastaman or woman with his/her herb and Bible. "Sharp As A Razor" was a rebel jam reminder to stay aware that Babylon is ruthless.
Julian squeezed in a few of his dads more obscure classics like "Positive Vibration" and a quicker paced version of the original Studio One rhythm "Stir It Up" from the sixties. You couldn't miss glimpses of Bob in Julian as he sang his father's music while he danced and skanked around the stage, down to using the same Gibson guitar as his dad.
| Julian Marley :: 10.23 :: Chicago|
As the show went forward, the vibes got higher and so did the temperature. Before Julian went into Awake's title track, which was written about the passing of his grandmother (Bob Marley's mother), Mrs. Cedella Marley Booker, the side doors were propped open for a moment, letting in a much needed cool breeze. The crowd was now reawakened for "Awake." Using a classic roots rhythm, "Too Much Violence In The Streets" worked a refreshing, hard-hitting combination of consciousness and economic strife. Aston "Family Man" Barrett Jr. was on bass and rhythm guitar and long time Uprising Band member Dready was on bass and guitar, as well; at times in between tunes they would switch instruments allowing each other equal playing time.
One clear highlight was "Things Ain't Cool," which is the final cut on Awake. It's a roots reggae tune that sounds like a modern day Bob Marley song. It features a slow, heavy riddim with a skanking feel to it - a nice one to hear live. After a certain length of time, one comes to the conclusion that Julian is the most roots reggae oriented of the Marley clan.
Stephen Marley made an appearance during "A Little Too Late," which is a cool song dealing with women who are heartbreakers. Stephen naturally came out and pumped up the audience, doing a bounce around chant with a constant smile on his face. It was kind of amusing to see Stephen with at least three layers of clothes on during the set; I suppose he was prepared for the Chicago weather. A few songs from Stephen's Mind Control album, "Iron Bars" and "Traffic Jam," were played, giving the show a climactic point before leaving the stage to set up for the encore.
| Julian & Stephen Marley :: 10.23 :: Chicago|
As the crowd cried for more, we soon got what we wanted. "Give Thanks & Praises," a tune from Bob Marley's posthumous Confrontation album, started off the encore, followed by the reggae rockers anthem "Could You Be Loved," and rounding out the sequence with Julian's own "I'm Trying." A smooth segue took us into the finale combination of "Exodus" and "Wake Up & Live." This was a fitting way to close out a stellar show because the movement of Jah people will make you wake up and live. In other words, you'll become awake.
It's safe to say that the second reggae generation is picking up from where the founders left off, and there's no better way to do this than with music made by the offspring of the originators. Things are looking bright for Julian Marley. If this show is a sign of what's in store for the future it's going to be an interesting, ground breaking evolution.
Julian Marley is on tour now; dates available here.
Continue reading for pics of Julian Marley in Chicago...