By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
It has been 40 years since Bob Marley recorded “Exodus,” one of the most influential albums of modern music. Marley’s seminal album had a huge impact on fans and fellow musicians, both when it was released and in the years since. The message of freedom and religious expression is as relevant today as it was then. Celebrating the work’s 40th anniversary on November 1, 2017, Bob Marley’s sons, Ziggy and Stephen, gathered a group of prominent musicians to recreate that magical album for one night. The unique event took place at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.
Blackbird Presents produced the event, the same live-music production company that earlier organized tribute shows for The Band’s “The Last Waltz” and Little Feat’s “Waiting For Columbus,” as well as other tributes including Dear Jerry and Greg Allman Live. In early 2017, Ziggy Marley re-released the “Exodus” album as “Exodus 40 – the Movement Continues,” a “restatement” of the record using alternate takes, previously unused vocals and instrumentation from the original album. Blackbird was inspired by that updated release and partnered with the Marley boys to put on the live show.
Ziggy and Stephen enlisted Don Was, the famous producer and bassist who has led several of the other Blackbird Presents shows, to help put together an all-star band of rock and soul heavyweights. They brought in Terence Higgins and Cyril Neville from New Orleans (both had performed in “The Last Waltz” tribute show) as well as Tom Morello, Gary Clark Jr., Jim James, Audley Freed, Citizen Cope and Aloe Blacc.
The show opened with the Marley brothers welcoming the audience and reminiscing about their father. They did a few heartfelt, stripped down versions of “Could You be Loved,” “Small Axe” and “Redemption Song” before bringing out the full band for the recreation of “Exodus.” Stephen Marley led on vocals for “So Much Things to Say” and was followed by Cyril Neville leading on “Guiltiness.”
Citizen Cope came out to sing a soulful version of “The Heathen.” Stephen Marley led a raucous rendition of “Jammin’.” Aloe Blacc came onstage to sing “Wait in Vain” and after he left, Jim James led on “Turn Your Lights Down Low.” He stayed while Blacc returned for a duet with James on “Three Little Birds” that had the audience singing along loudly.
Ziggy and Stephen took over for another singalong as everyone in the house joined in on “One Love/People Get Ready.” Tom Morello came out to shred on guitar as Stephen sang “Exodus.” The band left for what turned out to be a brief break before the encore. They reemerged with the Marley boys dipping into their father’s back catalog for “All Day, All Night.” Gary Clark Jr. joined them for “No Woman, No Crime.” He sang vocals and played a sweet guitar solo.
With Gary Clark Jr. still on stage, Tom Morello came back out. Ziggy sang lead on “I Shot the Sheriff” and the guitar gunslingers took turns blasting solos, culminating with an epic synchronized finale. Everyone came on stage for the last cut, “Get Up, Stand Up,” as the appreciative crowd was on their feet for another, final singalong.
With today’s social issues, conflicts and threats of war, Bob Marley’s “Exodus” still provides a thought-provoking set of ideas that resonate as if the songs had been written this year. Despite heavy concerns about our future, the good vibes provided by the music, in addition to the cloud of smoke and strong ganja aroma wafting through the air, gave everyone attending the sensation – even if only momentary – that “everything gonna be alright.”