All roads led to the O2 Academy Brixton on Sunday July 1st 2018 for a hugely anticipated show from Grammy winner Damian Marley. So high was the buzz around the youngest son of Rt. Hon. Robert Nesta Marley arriving into the UK that this show sold out weeks in advance (along with other UK shows). The timing of the show was marked to perfection as July 1st is significant on two accounts- International Reggae Day is celebrated across the world and also marks the passing of the Crown Prince of reggae Dennis Emmanuel Brown in 1999.
By DJ 745
World A Reggae arrived into this iconic venue at around 7.30pm and one could feel the excitement both outside and inside the almost capacity crowd. If the temperatures had soared in daytime London on one of the hottest days of the summer, the night was about to get hotter as the crowd awaited the arrival of Damian Marley. Damian Marley, along with his siblings operate Ghetto Youths International- a record label responsible for their own musical releases in their formative years and also those of younger artists including Christopher Ellis who was supporting.
Christopher Ellis burst onto the stage full to the brim with energy and confidence blasting out hits from his own catalogue as well as those from his late father Alton Ellis all backed by the ‘A Team’ band- he had the crowd singing along to hits including ‘Breaking Up’ and ‘I’m Still In Love With You’ before calling on UK’s Bucky Jo to join him on stage to perform ‘Uh-Oh’ as well as performing ‘Better Than Love’, ‘End Of Time’ and ‘Here We Are’ on an updated version of ‘My Conversation’ sure to feature on his forthcoming album with Ghetto Youths United. Seanie B from BBC 1Xtra entertained the capacity crowd with reggae and dancehall classics with iconic songs from Buju Banton and Sizzla rousing the biggest cheers.
9.20pm and the members of Damian’s band assembled onto the stage lit up with visuals from the Grammy winning ‘Stony Hill’ album in the background. The 5000 strong crowd shuffled a few inches further forwards to get closer to the stage-Showtime! The main event began with a spoken intro from Big Youth and Bunny Wailer-reinforced with the powerful visuals in the background and dramatic stage lighting. The powerful vocal tones of Damian Marley could be heard as he rushed onto the stage accompanied by his ever faithful flagman as he blasted out his hit single ‘Here We Go’ to which the crowd showed their approval and a wave of smartphones taking in what was to be an iconic performance. The rhythm- a modern day version of Dennis Brown’s ‘Here I Come’ played to perfection by the band and maintaining its roots reggae elements somehow blended seamlessly into EDM smash from 2012 – ‘Make It Bun Dem’. “We mash up the place Turn up the bass And make them all have fun A-we ablaze the fire Make it burn them” The hits flowed from the earlier albums including ‘More Justice’ with the audience timing their responses to perfection with “Extra, extra read all about it” and ‘The Mission’.
The energy levels from both Damian, his band and the crowd were in synergy with one another. “Good night Brixton, do you love marijuana?” led into ‘Medication’ with some superb musicianship from the band and hazy green stage lighting and Damian Marley reasoning with the crowd about the current discussion in the UK about the medical benefits. No set list would be complete without taking the music back to the roots and Damian did just that with his renditions of his fathers ‘Crazy Baldheads’, ‘War’ and ‘No More Trouble’. As I turned to look around at the people standing around me a thought crossed my mind- many of the people would not have even been born at the time of Bob Marley’s transition in 1981 and this is probably as close as seeing the king himself. “London Are you ready”? Led to a rapturous “Yeeeaaaah” with the crowd singing no more trouble almost word for word. A short excerpt of ‘Exodus’ flowed into ‘Move’ complete with stunning background visual of the Lion of Judah HIM Haile Selassie I. The atmosphere was reaching a peak as we went into ‘Everybody Wanna Be Somebody’, ‘Nail Pon Cross’ and a celebration of hard working people in ‘Living It Up’ almost brought the house down.
The finale of the show was a very special one with Damian encouraging the crowd to clap to the beat that evolved into ‘Is This Love’ as he skanked on stage, locks flowing and as he put his hand to his ear as the crowd sang the first verse in it’s entirety! ‘Could You Be Loved’ and ‘Road to Zion’ followed with Damian asking the crowd “One more time sing with us -we gotta keep on walking on the Road to Zion“. The voice of Damian could be heard saying “London Jah bless you” before the lights went down at 11pm as the crowd cheered emphatically before Damian returned “I wanna say thank you until next time, take care of yuhself -one love” before going into the words “please take me home, please take me home” against some stunning visuals of the island of Jamaica before closing the show to huge cheers of “Jamaica Jamaica” and the grand finale of ‘Welcome To Jamrock’.
A perfect and fitting end to an amazing performance by Damian Marley, Christopher Ellis and their bands had mesmerized the audience for almost two hours and the reactions on peoples faces as they left the heat inside the venue to walk out onto a warm London night were that they had just witnessed something very special.