Thousands of reggae music lovers congregated for the summer’s biggest Reggae Tour “Catch a Fire” (named after Bob Marley and Wailers 1973 album) in Central Park Summerstage, N.Y. on Aug. 30. Many came to bear witness to Reggae royalty Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Stephen “Ragga” Marley kick off the most anticipated tour of the year in what would have been Bob Marley’s 70th birthday.
Catch a Fire concert lineup of acts included Bob Marley’s grandsons Skip Marley and Joe Mersa, the Royal Family of Reggae- Morgan Heritage and one of the leading ambassadors of modern day Reggae-Tarrus Riley, rounded out the line-up.
Looking around the crowd, there was an exceptionally diverse group of people that you can tell truly enjoyed their music. While waiting for the performaces to start at 6pm, couples, families and friends were either lounging on the grass or patiently wating on the long lines for food while enjoying the one love vibe that was in the air.
Tarrus Riley who opened up the show with “Promise me Love” and a crowd favorite “She’s Royal” which brought the crowd to a fever pitch. A touching moment was when Tarrus brought out his wheechair–bound father, the legendary Jimmy Riley on stage as the two performed together. Royal Family of Reggae Morgan Heritage who have established themselves as the premiere live group on the reggae circuit showcased their musical virtuosity repeatedly throughout their set. They performed “Strickly Roots” “Don’t haffi Dread” (VP records) and fan favorite “She still in love with me.”
Around 8:30 pm one of the members of the Marley crew was waving the Rastafarian flag while another unveiled a golden lion sculpture that was on the stage. The crowd instantly knew that Stephen “Ragga” Marley was about to perform. When he finally made it on stage the crowd erupted with a loud cheer. Stephen opened up with his father’s anthem “Lively Up Yourself,” which had the crowd swaying to the music and singing with such enthusiasm. He covered many of the classics such as “Roots, Rock, Reggae” and “Iron Lion Zion.” As he was about to perform another one of has father’s classics a fight broke out in front of the stage, it was quite obvious he was displeased with the interruption the fighting had caused. Stephen paused for moment and had the band stop the music, he asked the audience or rather it was more of a statement “This is the wrong house, it is not the house of Rasafaria” the crowd agreed in harmony and the performance continued without a hitch.
The youngest son of Reggae legend Bob Marley, Damian “Jr. Gong” (first ever artist to win a Grammy outside of the Reggae categrory) bought a different vibe to the stage, he had a commanding rockstar swagger about him, the energy in the crowd was contagious. Coined as the “spirtual revolutionary” he opened with “Confrontation” which has vocal samples from Haile Selassie, Bunny Wailer and Marcus Garvey. Marley’s reedy, accented voice as he added his rapid-fire, dancehall-style bursts danced around the stage as he performed his 2010 collaboration with hip-hop artist, Nas “Distant Relatives” brought the crowd into a frenzy. Before thanking New York (by then it had started raining) Damian brought out a special, tiny guest. His son Elijah took the mic and called out, mimicking his dad and uncle, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” and then gave a rapid-fire rap before surrendering the mic back to his father. Damian jubilantly sent fans home with “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Road to Zion,” and his monster hit “Welcome to Jamrock.”