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Cadillac City

Ziggy Marley
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Ziggy Played Guitar
Copley Square Plaza-
August 16, 2003
By Courtney Hollands

The weather was all sun and picturesque summer for Ziggy Marley's free Copley Square concert on Thursday, August 16. In Boston to promote his first solo-sans-siblings effort, April 2003's Dragonfly, Marley's concert coincided with the 5:00 P.M. rush hour, drawing a curious Boston cross-section. With their heads tipped towards the blue sky, dreadlocked rastas, aging hipsters-of the I-saw-Bob-Marley-back-in-1969-when-he-played-at-some-underground-now-defunct-pub-and-it-was-awesome crowd-and investment bankers alike packed the lawn and shamelessly belted out such cheesy lyrics as: "Call me selfish if you will / My life I alone I can live / I've got to be true to myself."

Admittedly, the show sometimes veered into self-help schmaltz. And the crowd loved it.
Helped out by Mother Nature. Marley's effervescent smile and welcoming presence, not to mention his rock-out sensibility, kept the show skanking along for nearly three hours.

Marley opened with a climactic Melody Makers staple, "Higher Vibration," and then moved into his own territory, playing all but two songs from Dragonfly. "I Get Out" was a bombastic favorite. "Shalom, Salaam" showcased his talented entourage, especially his guitarists, who exchanged furious solos, taking the show far from mellow.

Not to discount the positively chilled moments. In "Melancholy Mood," Marley, channeling Billie Holiday, crooned "A little collie weed to ease I grief" with equal parts sex and sorrow-his eyes pleading and barely opened.

But it was when Marley exchanged his roots for an electric guitar that he distinguished himself, especially when covering his dad's standard numbers. The first cover was an uninspired rendition of "I Shot the Sheriff" -unexpected, per se, but welcomed. It's hard to admit that Marley covers his father's work best when he, well, sounds like the great one. Maybe it's because Bob did it so well; maybe it's because we associate such strong lyrics with a certain vocal intonation. Thankfully, Marley understood this towards the end of the set. If you closed your eyes during later covers, such as "Is This Love?," "Concrete Jungle," or "No Woman, No Cry," you could imagine yourself far away in 1969, in equally troubling times, soothed by political diatribes and universal love.

That said, Ziggy offered a refreshing musical take on "Jammin'." The first song of the extended encore, Marley doled out solos for his band and scatted the last verse, his "bawap-she-bahs" irresistibly danceable.

And when he surfaced on stage with a simple acoustic guitar for a stripped down version of "Redemption Song," the effect was unifying. As the well-known verses rolled out of Marley's well-worked throat, he looked visibly shaken. The minimal red and white Christmas lights adorning the mic stand, combined with Marley's flowing white shirt and upraised arms, created a surreal, almost religious feel. The crowd stared, unblinking, and then linked arms and sang.

And then the concert ended, and the audience fell back into their various walks of life. Yet, thanks to Ziggy and Bob, songs of freedom lasted well into the summer night.


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