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REVIEW: The Wailers at The Madison Theater

“Are you ready?! Kentucky, Cincinnati and all around this home! Give a blessing to Aston Barrett, Jr. and The Wailers! We’re ready, get ready, come closer, come closer,” the MC beckoned to the crowd. “ We’re going to give you something tonight that is so special, to take back with you. So open your hearts and then get ready for some love to take home. Get ready for Aston Barrett, Jr. and The Wailers!”

Bob Marley and The Wailers are synonymous with peace, love, and happiness. Their One Love declaration has become a spiritual mantra to millions worldwide and has inspired generations with their unwavering message of love and unity. It’s an expression of unity, inclusion, and cohesion regardless of race, creed or color. To this day, One Love is still used by Rastafarians and Jamaicans as a wish for unity and goodwill.

Although not the founders of reggae, The Wailers pioneered the sound and brought reggae to international attention. Originating from Jamaica in the mid-1960s, reggae takes its name from the 1968 single “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals, and it became the bridge that incorporated musical idioms from many different genres such as ska, rocksteady, calypso, and American soul music and rhythm and blues. The reggae sound is famed for the rhythmic patterns heard in percussion, bass lines, and rhythm guitar parts with a prominent riff played on bass guitar. Reggae scenes consist of two guitars, one for rhythm and one for lead, drums, congas and keyboards along with a couple of vocalists.

Reggae is closely tied to the Rastafarian religion and social movement that traces its roots to 1930s Jamaica. The Wailers have played a pivotal role in helping spread the reggae genre to the world. Their music has played a vital role in establishing the sound that would become idiosyncratic with Jamaica. The Wailers have influenced many prominent bands and musicians including The Police, Sublime, Wyclef Jean, and Rihanna to name a few.

Opening with Coming in from the Cold, “In this life, in this life,” belted lead vocalist Mitchell Brunings to the crowd. “..its you, its you, it's you I'm talking’ to!” From Marley’s final album, Uprising, Coming in from the Cold is a musical tale of Marley’s return to Jamaica after moving from England. It’s a reminder that “When one door is closed, don’t you know, the other is open?” Life shares many tales; keep your head up and continue forward. Trust in the higher power.

“Are you ready?” Brunings asked the audience. As The Wailers move into “Is This Love,” he asks the listeners to let the music guide you. No time for negativity, only positivity and love.

“Freedom for the people, freedom for the earth, freedom from the world. Freedom for the rastaman. Freedom for all liberty. This is the message we are bringing.”

Junior Jazz, who is on vocals and guitar, takes the lead on Chant Down Babylon. “Come we go burn down Babylon one more time,” sang Jazz. The phrase ‘chant down Babylon’ originated in Jamaica and has been described as the ultimate goal of Rastafarianism. “Feel it in your system, from your head down to your toes,” beckons Jazz.

“YA cuz everything is going to be alright as long as there is reggae music and the root is firmly planted into the side or righteousness. Next up coming from that root grows a firm stem and this tree this mighty tree will sing for you here tonight on drums and vocals Aston Barrett, Jr!” as the song segwayed to “Fig Tree”. He is the son of Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who was the bandleader of Marley’s backing band, as well as co-producer of the albums, and the man in charge of the overall song arrangements.

“And the fruit of that tree is here for you to eat as knowledge and positivity can you feel it out there? Can you feel it out there, Kentucky? Well then feast on it!” said Brunings.

Aston Barrett, Jr., drummer and leader of The Wailers since 2016 tied the band together with unmatched drumming skills.

The Wailers backup singers, affectionately called Sister Ann Marie and Sister Tina, showed their chops together and separately on “No Woman, No Cry” and “Stir It Up.”

Highly alluring, Brunings was excellent at keeping the audience hyped and engaged throughout the performance.

“That’s right, we have all the right ingredients for a good reggae night! Are you enjoying yourselves Kentucky?” asked Brunings while dancing on the stage. “This thing right here,” pointing his fingers toward the crowd, “You, us, in this place at this time is destiny. You can’t change what is meant to be, you can’t change destiny.”

The Weathered Feather, six Cincinnati area rockers fused together by history, tenure, and craft opened the show heartily and eager. Infused with blues and reggae undertones, The Weathered Feather are storytelling rock and rollers. Their raw talent and energy radiated from the stage to listeners, captivating the audience with original songs such as “Wishing Well” and “Love Drunk Punch.” Guitarists and vocals Brandon Adkins and Colby Woodson brought their showmanship skills, keeping the audience engaged and moving to the beat. Watching their show was a great lead in to The Wailers.

Soul Criminal, a local band that formed in Colorado with roots in East LA, started the evening with a mix of original and cover songs. Their sound is rock and roll sprinkled with blues and soul. Incredible singing accompanied by strong instrumentals made them a joy to watch.

This is the kind of energy The Wailers is all about. It’s about peace. It’s about love. It’s about unity. If you feel the love, pay it forward. If you feel the love, share it. If you understand the One Love mission, wear it. Once all our souls are aligned only then can we shine out into the darkness where it’s needed so much. This is the type of music that fights injustice and takes the path of helping humanity. It is One Love.


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The Wailers Head to Madison Theater

The Wailers, the iconic reggae band recognized worldwide for their influence on the genre and their close association with the legendary Bob Marley, are making a stop at The Madison Theater Sunday, August 27.