September 17, 1999|
Anfiteatro Luis Muñoz Marín - San Juan, Puerto Rico
I arrived as usual to the Anfiteatro Luis Muñoz Marín in San Juan anxious to see Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. The opening act, Jomo Pemberton, was great reggae and after a sudden rainfall on the open air crowd Jomo said 'Every Raindrop is a Blessing from Heaven', It was a great way to cool off and start off the evening. The next band was a local Puerto Rican Reggae Group called "Cultura Profética" or Profetic Culture. They played for over one hour and delighted the crowd with their melodic riffs and quality sound, boy have they improved, and after all we were hearing reggae in spanish, good for the local crowd to sing along to.
In anticipation of Ziggy, I left my seat and went to get some refreshments. The crowd had grown significantly and I noticed lots of folks just having a great time. The smell of freedom was everywhere, we were there in 80+ degree weather, sweating, drenched, free and together. The Melody Makers opened-up with 'Feeling Irie', with the noticeable absence of Cedella, who was not present on vocals, boy did we miss her. Nevertheless, Sharon and Erica's vocals were strong and steady, creating great sonic backdrops.
Next in line was 'Beautiful Day', the crisp sounds of Ziggy on Guitar coupled to a tight Bass Line and Creative percussions left the crowd dazzled. A shooting star shot over the stage and many people gasped in awe, proof of Ziggy's mystical powers, a sign of approval from Jah the Highest. After a brief greeting to all the Rastafari present, and were they doing their thing, the crowd was treated to 'Natural Mystic, 'Jah Bless' and 'Free like we Want 2 B', one of my all time favorites. Ziggy flawlessly ripped through this creative song, backed up by some incredible bass lines, pumping rhythms and searing vocals.
Stephen's voice on 'Rainbow County' revealed that genetics do play a role, a hint of Bob's voice and a glimpse into the past. Stephen's new classic 'One Good Spliff' enchanted those present, with Ziggy smiling and dancing merrily alongside Sharon and Erica, everyone was having a 'real good one' after all. Being transformed by 'Higher Vibration', Ziggy touched our spirits and concioness by repeating, "Perfection of Divinity is everyone's Duty", waving the crowd onto higher consciouness, a real vocal and acoustic treat of mezmerizing sounds, I was floating along.
For those not familiar with Ziggy and the Melody Makers New Album ' Spirit of Music', the band broke into 'Tomorrow People', a well known song that got everyone moving and jumping. Stephen creatively interpreted 'All day All Night', one of my favorite songs from their new album, getting eveyone in the groove to "Love Me Forever and Ever". I did my duty and sang along word for word on every song. The people around me kept staring as if in disbelief that a dude like me knew all the lyrics, real cool man! I kept singing and scribbling the names of each song as the night grew older, delving into the sounds of reggae and the spirit of the moment.
After a very brief pause, the band broke into 'Africa Unite', an enduring classic that touched the hearts and souls of all of us who understand the past and cherish a better future. Credit must be given to Mother Africa, whose culture, inventions and treasures were long ago usurped by barbarians and pirates. I felt like saluting or holding my hand over my heart, a true anthem for freedom.
Seamlessly breaking into 'Look who's Dancing' the crowd roared in approval, and Sharon danced away as if transfixed by Jah's Blessings and Spririt. I could not believe that the next song ' Mr. Postman' was actually being played! It was a completely unexpected treat for which Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers are known for. I have to admit, with their repertoire of albums, each live concert brings a newer, higher version of sounds recorded in their past, reminding us of their roots and creative career as exponents of Reggae in today's world.
In honor of their roots, the pleasing interpretation of 'Wer'e Jamming' saw a Bleeding solo Guitar Jam by Stephen as never heard. In a duo of electric waves, Stephen was peeling away on his electric which brought the crowd to their feet in a unified roar of approval, I got blown away and so did the crowd. As if things weren't getting Hot, The Melody Makers broke into 'Born to be Lively' and the whole place started to jump and move in unison, a wave of humanity as one. After a breather and chants of 'Otra, otra, otra' Ziggy came back and wrapped things up with 'Could you be Loved'. As a tribute to Jah the highest, they played as never before, I was still sweating from all of the previous acitivity, hoarse from yelling and chanting along. With the closing song, Sharon let out a Bongo solo to seal a perfect reggae evening. It was almost 2:00 am and I did have to get some sleep after all. A stunning performance from one of the world's greatest and clearest exponents of reggae music. I can't wait till they pass by Puerto Rico again.
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