If there’s an artist whose music is powerful enough to unify generations of people from different ages, backgrounds and races, it’s Damian “Jr Gong” Marley. On Wednesday (Sept. 6), Marley brought his Stony Hill Tour to New York City’s Irving Plaza, as part of his two-night journey in the Big Apple.
It was a cold, rainy evening, but fans of the reggae artist powered through the unpleasant weather and piled into the Flatiron District venue, anxiously awaiting the headliner’s arrival. Marley and his opener Kabaka Pyramid brought their island flavor to New York to heat things up, leaving fans begging for encores by the night’s end.
Kabaka Pyramid, hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, promptly sauntered onto the stage at 8:00 pm, clad in a red leather jacket and a black shirt with red lettering that read “God. Allah. Jah. Buddha. Krishna. We Are 1,” just one of the many socially conscious moments from Kabaka’s performance. He began his fiery show by dipping back into his repertoire and pulling out “Free From Chains” off his 2011 project Rebel Music.
“Do you love Reggae music?,” he asked the crowd midway through his nearly 45-minute set, and without hesitation, the audience cheered in excitement. “The thing I love most about reggae music is there’s always a message,” he said. He continued to project messages of empowerment and unity as he performed songs like “Never Gonna Be A Slave” and the Chronixx-assisted “Mi Alright.” Pyramid later debuted a new single titled “Can’t Breathe,” off his upcoming debut album Contraband.
As the clock struck 9:00 pm, a collage of photos of Haile Selassie, the most prominent figure in the Rastafarian movement, appeared on the large screen situated atop the stage. Clouds of marijuana hovered over the packed audience and permeated the venue space as fans anticipated Marley’s appearance. The airy, whistling melody of “Here We Go” blared from the speakers as the headliner delivered his verse backstage before he was actually seen on stage with the lyrics of “Here We Go” effortlessly rolling off the tongue of Marley devotees.
Marley was joined on stage by his live band and hype man, who waved the Rastafarian flag all night long and made sure the reggae artist’s energy levels were high throughout the lengthy set.
The “Welcome To Jamrock” crooner’s floor-length dreads swept the Irving stage as he performed early cuts like 2001’s “More Justice,” leading the crowd into a call-and-response shout as he told fans, “When I say ‘Jah,’ you say Rastafari.”
Aside from the band and hype man, two female vocalists were positioned on the side of the stage and often broke out in synchronized choreography routines. Marley allowed the female singers to show off their vocal ranges during “Hey Girl,” an ode to Marley’s lady and “Time Travel,” a track that finds him airing out his concerns with the ever-changing technology world.
An image of a marijuana leaf folded into a cross later appeared on the screen as Marley transitioned into a tribute to the herb titled “Medication.” The reggae artist told the crowd that his love for the plant is largely due to its medicinal effects and healing properties and if people took the time to research the plant’s effects, diseases like Crohn’s Disease wouldn’t’t be as prevalent as it is today.
— -Chief- (@K1ng_k13f) September 7, 2017
Marley then segued into more politically-charged anthems, calling for people to unify and put an end to violence on “The Mission.” He covered his father’s, Bob Marley, powerful songs “War” and “Is This Love” and ended his set abruptly around 10:30 pm.
The audience began to chant “encore” with the hopes of Marley heading back to the stage. “Do you really want more?” the reggae artist asked the crowd. He returned to the stage and ripped through more of his Stony Hill deep cuts. He spoke directly to the youth as he performed “So a Child May Follow” and delivered a spirited rendition of the triumphant “The Struggle Discontinues.”
“New York, it has always been a pleasure, real deal,” he said as closed out the second half of his set. “Until next time, take care of yourself. One love.”
— MICHEBOO (@MICHEBOOMEDIA) September 7, 2017
To put an exclamation mark on the first night of his two-day NY visit, Marley played the video of his 2005 hit “Welcome to Jamrock,” with cell phone lights and lighters illuminating the dark space as the entire crowd sang along to his classic track. As the stage faded to black, Marley said his final goodbyes, but fans insisted that he return for another encore. The audience continued chanted him long after the “Bam” crooner left the stage and although he never returned, the fans’ energy remained intact.