December 4, 1999
Oracabessa Bay - Oracabessa, Jamaica
One Love: The Bob Marley All-Star Tribute
Posters promoting the bob marley one love tribute greet us at montego bay airport. After a few struggles with opening the rental van's rear door, a friendly local connects us with herb before leaving the airport. "You need someting for the road - you in Jamaica mon!" Yankee drivers humbled by the left-side driving experience are blessed to arrive in Ocho Rios in one piece.
The concert venue, Orocabessa Bay, is part of Chris Blackwell's Island Outpost and is an idyllic setting for the One Love tribute. In a peninsula surrrounded by lush mountain mounds as a backdrop and the sea behind the lawn and vendor's row. The show was being taped for TNT, with Bob's music and Rasta message to broadcast before the Millennium on December 19th.
The preshow warmup showcased the venue's superior sound (its capacity around 10,000) - some remixes from the "Third World Cop" soundtrack (the film's tshirt serving as nice "uniforms" for venue's personnel). One controversy surrounding Jamaica preceding the event related to high $50 ticket price, expensive for locals. The evening's festivities overcame this aspect of the pre-show media coverage, the music would resoundingly deliver throughout the evening.
For those 8 to 9 thousand that did attend, while the flow was disrupted by taping of the live concert, there were several outstanding performances that made a lasting impact. First, members of the Wailers - Al Anderson, Aston "Family Man" Barrett, and Tyrone Downie - united with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers to provide each guest artist with tight, crispy, and deep backing music and riddim. Stephen shared a role as musical director for the concert and his energy taking his part with the Melody Makers.
Among the guest artists, Darius Rucker delivered one of the more surprising performance of the evening. His deep voice and passionate energy carried the heavy lyrics and underlying message in "War". Lauryn Hill opened the show with "Turn Your Lights Down Low", the crowd responding by rushing the stage, teenagers screaming with glee. She busted a ragga rap with a nice transition back to the mellow groove of the song, a departure from the approach taken on "Chant Down Babylon". Jimmy Cliff came with his best, performing "Jammin" and with Erykah Badu on "No Woman No Cry". The subtle textures from the piano gives this version a nice change. Ben Harper (his own concert's also real good, in his young 20s, his songwriting in the conscious spirit and intelligence of Bob Marley with guitar skills drawing comparisons to Hendrix.) This night, he's without instrument but leads in "Get Up Stand Up", KyMani Marley joining him on vocals. (KyMani rips "Sun Is Shining" in the opener with the Melody Makers - more later).
Tracy Chapman sang her sweet voice on "Three Little Birds" and later joins Ziggy and Stephen on "Trenchtown Rock" ...Queen Latifah did justice to "Bad Card" as Eve to "Rat Race".
The highlights of the night showcased Lauryn Hill and Ziggy sing "Redemption Song" with Ziggy playing acoustic guitar supported by congo and subtle guitar licks here and there. The Melody Makers ripped up "Could You Be Loved" with the Marley Girls jiving, the crowd urging for more. Then from nowhere Cedella Marley's sweet voice leads the band into "Pass It On", the Marley's taking us to church! This offered in a moment of mist hovering above the stage and rain staying away, when the audience expected another down-time gap between performances, here came the soothing and delicate voice of Cedella and the Marley girls, making this brief moment singing "Pass it On" (and the only non-Bob tune, its a Bunny song) the highlight of the evening.
The evening closed with all artists on stage singing none other than "One Love".
Pre show recollections:
Nyabinghi prayer and congo chant
Chaka Demus and Pliers
ZMMM/GYC - high tide low tide, sun is shining, and about four more but I can't remember... they also play "africa unite" during the taped portion of the all star tribute, perhaps the Melody Makers' most appropriate cover of one of their father's songs: "we are the children of the rastaman"