REVIEW | THE WAILERS (@wailers) LIVE AT THE O2 INSTITUTE BIRMINGHAM

WAILERSWhen people ask me how The Wail­ers show was, all I can think to say is that it was a truly spir­itu­al exper­i­ence. When people think about reg­gae music, they think about Bob Mar­ley. When they know Bob Mar­ley, know­ledge of The Wail­ers is next in line. Some­how, at their live show, I was swept into the flow of liquid life that poured into the audi­ence off the stage and from the hearts of one of the most highly revered reg­gae bands of all time.

The O2 Insti­tute in Birm­ing­ham, formerly known as the Dig­beth Insti­tute, boasts a 2000-capa­city primary aud­it­or­i­um includ­ing a bal­cony sec­tion. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously worked at the ven­ue, the space holds a per­son­al con­nec­tion for me. Birm­ing­ham also holds a long-run­ning reg­gae con­nec­tion; hav­ing given birth to estab­lished bands such as Steel Pulse and UB40.

For me, everything about see­ing The Wail­ers now, at this time in my life and in this place, with all the his­tory and con­nec­tions, made it a sac­red exper­i­ence. I was able to put myself in a space I’ve nev­er really exper­i­enced before. So if you’re look­ing to hear cri­ti­cisms or a neg­at­ive review of this show, you may as well stop read­ing here. This really ain’t one of them.

The line-up fea­tured ori­gin­al mem­bers Aston “Fam­ily­man” Bar­rett, Juni­or Mar­vin, and Don­ald Kin­sey. Fron­ted by lead vocal­ist Josh Dav­id Bar­rett; the stage was almost spill­ing over with musi­cians and their equip­ment, but there was noth­ing “too much” about this per­form­ance. This was a show that knew exactly what its pur­pose was and how to achieve it.

The entire vibe of this show was on point. Almost every­one seemed like they were in a zone, and nobody had any bones to pick. I don’t usu­ally put myself in many situ­ations around people who drink alco­hol; I can even end up being on the defens­ive. But this was one of those times when it didn’t seem to inter­fere with peoples’ capa­city to be con­sid­er­ate humans, and nor did I feel the need to shield myself from the lowered inhib­i­tions of steam-releas­ing brummies. Thank­fully, it was all love.

Josh Bar­rett com­menced the show by call­ing on the spir­it of Jah. In respect to the Rasta­far­i­an belief, they called upon the pres­ence of some­thing great­er than us. This struck me, as I noted its res­on­ance with me and took my own moment to pay respect. And so began the show. “Buf­falo Sol­dier” and “I Shot the Sher­iff” nes­ted neatly near the top of the set list. It guided people into the flow and made us move to the col­lect­ive beat. “Is This Love”, “Wait­ing In Vain” and “Three Little Birds” pulled us into the inev­it­able whirl­wind of love that filled the ven­ue; includ­ing all the ups and downs respect­ively.

“One Love” came. We sang. I cried. We danced. I loved. This song has the abil­ity to tran­scend time, bor­ders, beliefs, dif­fer­ences and more. The power of it has stood its ground and still rever­ber­ates the spir­it of Bob Mar­ley wherever it goes. Aptly enough, “No Woman, No Cry” came next and, after dry­ing my tears, I sang along to the reas­sur­ing refrain that everything is gon­na be alright. And I sin­cerely believe it too.

Finally “Jam­ming”, “The Hea­then” and “Exodus” played out one of the most beau­ti­ful shows I’ve had the for­tune of being a part of. The Exodus album has become the soundtrack of the last nine months for me, as I’ve been exper­i­en­cing a type of trans­ition; this night was the birth of some­thing new.

The band left the stage that night hav­ing shared some­thing so unique. As the crowd trickled out, I stood and stared at the aban­doned stage. Hav­ing worked live music shows over the years, see­ing how a stage looks imme­di­ately after per­formers have left it can tell me so much about the show. This stage was left almost the way it was found. There was no mess and no fuss. There was just the spir­it and the mater­i­al objects required to engage an audi­ence. My favour­ite thing about this show was its imper­man­ence; its abil­ity to tran­scend the phys­ic­al and leave with ease and grace.

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Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afi­fah is a Writer and Research­er based in Lon­don. She has spent over a dec­ade in the enter­tain­ment industry. She has dealt with enough bull­shit to feel like she can give an opin­ion. She Thanks you for read­ing.

About Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah
Aisha Afifah is a Writer and Researcher based in London. She has spent over a decade in the entertainment industry. She has dealt with enough bullshit to feel like she can give an opinion. She Thanks you for reading.