Review: Ziggy Marley at the Boulder Theater, 1/21/12
There's an ongoing fight in Boulder County regarding the farming of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on public land, and Saturday night, Ziggy Marley headlined a sold-out show that generated some serious artillery (and funds) for the GMO Free Boulder contingent. His song selection was a mix of classic Ziggy, pieces from the new album, Wild and Free, and some spine-tingling covers of his father, Bob Marley, that served to remind the crowd where this dreadlocked powerhouse got his talent and charisma.
Ziggy and his band took the stage shortly after 9 p.m. and opened, appropriately, with "Personal Revolution." By this point, the crowd had been thoroughly warmed up (and kicked into protest mode) with hip-hop and spoken-word selections from Alais Clay and a short appearance by the Wandering Monks. Clay's performance was solid and well-considered for this concert with a message, but the crowd was clearly there for one reason, and the theater erupted as he strolled onto stage.
Surrounded by eight to nine other musicians on stage at all times, Marley nonetheless commanded the crowd's attention almost exclusively. The energy alternated between upbeat and powerful to more mellow and meandering, but whatever the mood, there were people in the crowd dancing to every song. After the powerful opener, Marley dropped one of a handful of one-sentence song intros -- "Freedom is good for you!" -- and the band played "Be Free" and "Welcome To the World" before diving into the first Bob cover of the evening, "Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)."
The band played fluidly and in beautiful sync, kicking up the energy a notch with "Higher Vibration." But it wasn't until "Changes" that it seemed the members really hit their groove, taking things to a higher level and sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. "Let Jah Will Be Done" followed and maintained that peak, moving into an eerie space-jam that remained tightly orchestrated.
"True to Myself" followed, one of Marley's biggest hits thus far in his career, and he received the appropriate response; although the crowd had been singing along with the rest of the set, this was the song where everyone seemed to be clapping and calling back in sync. After "Look Who's Dancing," Marley uttered another one-sentence teaser -- "This is a cry for justice" -- and they moved into, of course, "Justice," moving seamlessly into "Get Up Stand Up" from that point. Hearing Ziggy cover one of his father's greatest hits sent shivers down my spine; you can hear the resonance of Bob's voice in the next generation.
The band left the stage briefly, then returned for a relatively long encore, opening with "Forward to Love" and "Dragonfly" before slowing down (just a notch) for "Black Cat," another crowd favorite. "Love Is My Religion" was next -- another of Marley's best-known songs, this could easily have been the closer for the night, but instead, Ziggy treated us to another one of his father's best songs, "Is This Love." And the final song of the night, "Wild and Free" -- also the title track of the latest album -- was specifically chosen for this GMO protest event; it's ostensibly about marijuana, but the message also applies to food. "Keep this going, we can make a change," Marley exhorted to wild applause before leaving the stage for the final time.
Personal Bias: This was my second Ziggy concert, and I've thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
Random Detail: A contingent from The Twelve Tribes was singing songs and handing out pamphlets as everyone filed out of the building.
By The Way: There was a no video/flash photography rule in place, and although the security guards did their best to enforce this restriction, it was very much a losing battle for them.
Personal Revolution Be Free Welcome To the World Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) Higher Vibration Tomorrow People Give a Little Love Changes Let Jah Will Be Done True to Myself Look Who's Dancing Justice Get Up Stand Up
Forward to Love Dragonfly Black Cat Love Is My Religion Is This Love Wild and Free
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.