Ziggy Marley in West Hollywood

Larson Sutton on August 22, 2018
Ziggy Marley in West Hollywood
photo credit: Jan Salzman

Ziggy Marley really likes the Roxy.  That affection manifested in his scheduling a stop at the famed spot on the Sunset Strip, with a capacity of 500, when the reggae superstar routinely makes a summer appearance at the nearby Hollywood Bowl and its 17,000 seats.  Those lucky enough to get tickets to this rare opportunity were more than happy to squeeze in, forgo air conditioning despite blistering temps outside, and witness up-close Marley’s searing two-hour set.

Marley entered with a mellowed stride, bordered by his two female backing vocalists as his seven-piece band played the opening new love song “Change Your World.”  Dressed in a striking black-and-gold dashiki shirt, the dreadlocked dynamo nodded in approval of his twin guitarists, as veteran Takeshi Akimoto and newcomer Adam Zimmon traded wailing licks to finish out the first round of Marley’s nightly rebellion.  On “See Dem Fake Leaders,” and the halting groove of “World Revolution,” he drove deeper the themes of political and social transformation largely present on his latest album, Rebellion Rises.  Then, singer Tracy Hazzard offered her pleas on “Justice,” with Marley sliding into his father Bob’s anthem “War” to cheers of recognition from the perspiring plenty in the sold-out club, and linking onto The Wailers’ early siren call, “Get Up, Stand Up.”

His modern classic “Love is My Religion,” with a coda of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” and forlorn “Beach in Hawaii” brought some sunlit vibrations to a performance that matched the rising mercury in its intensity and content.  The playful rock of “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars” led to the calming zephyrs of “One Love,” and Marley asking for universally positive thoughts on two from the new record: the bubbly “High on Life” and the darkly reassuring “Circle of Peace.”

Marley and his band were exceptionally well-seasoned throughout, his laser-focused ensemble led by the lock-tight drumming of veteran Santa Davis, hitting the starts and stops, transitions and resolutions with the dexterity and sharpness of a polished group that had just finished a European run.  “We Are the People,” from 2016’s eponymous Grammy-winning effort sizzled into an emotionally gripping take on “I Will Be Glad,” and a high mark of the latter half.  A charging “Wild and Free,” with Zimmon again peeling back layers of rippling guitar gave way to Bob’s “Coming in from the Cold,” perhaps psychologically cooling the sweat-drenched mass singing every word.

After the Rebellion Rises title track closed the set, Marley encored with “Your Pain is Mine,” followed by Bob’s gem, “Is This Love,” as he enticed the humid mass of bodies before him to join in on the chorus.  With a final “Look Who’s Dancing,” the untiring artist and his audience found a rejuvenating parting breath, capping off this scorcher of an August night in Southern California.