It’s suitably hot in the venue as a decent sized crowd has gathered to see an original Wailer play on this Summer evening here in Brighton. Bunny Wailer’s backing band are called the Solomonic Reggae-stra and are made up of drums, bass, trombone, saxophone, trumpet, lead guitar and two backing singers, one male and one female. To showcase the fact that Bunny Wailer has been around since the Ska era, the band start the set by playing the uptempo and jaunty “Freedom Sound” by The Skatalites circa 1964, a good way to start any gig.
The band then play The Wailers’ “Rastaman Chant” from the 1973 “Burning” album and a dapper and trim Bunny Wailer comes onto the stage to a great reception. He’s 67 years old now and looks every inch the wise Rasta elder statesman as he beams at the crowd from behind his shades. His classic (and probably most well known album) is the 1976 Roots Reggae masterpiece “Blackheart Man” and he performs the title track as well as “Amagideon” from this album. His mid eighties period was summed up by great versions of “Cool Runnings” and a shortened version of “Rule Dance Hall”, calling for rewinds from the band in his husky, growling voice as he ambles from one end of the stage to the other.
A big cheer goes up when he sings “No Woman No Cry”, a welcome nod to Bob Marley’s legacy without being sentimental. He also sings “Simmer Down”, the first single The Wailers released back in 1963 when they were backed by The Skatalites for the recording. It’s always good to see a real musical icon still touring, and Bunny Wailer has earned his place in that category. All in all it was a great showcase of the sort of Roots Reggae that has never really gone away but has been out of favour with the music industry, a bit like Bunny Wailer himself.