Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at the Rainbow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2005, 12:00am

Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at the Rainbow

Starring: Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh

The gig: Four years before his untimely death, aged 36, Bob Marley - the world's best-known reggae singer/songwriter was at the top of his game - when performing this concert in north London in 1977.

Just as important as the 70-minute concert in this DVD package is the award-winning documentary Caribbean Nights: The Bob Marley Story, which explains how a boy from the Third World becomes an international music star with the iconic Wailers.

At the time of this performance, Marley was living in England near the now-defunct Finsbury Park venue. He'd had a stint in Britain before and two spells in the US pursuing his career; this time, though, he had taken a break from his native Jamaica after being shot at by gunmen hired by political opponents of the party with which he had forged links.

Much of his earlier work reflected the hard-knock life Marley experienced in the impoverished, sprawling ghetto known as Trenchtown in Jamaica's capital Kingston. Concert opener Trenchtown Rock exposes this, with lively pace and without sentimentality.

By 1977 the Wailers had lost Marley's two co-founding members. But now he was joined by possibly his band's most accomplished guitarists - Junior Marvin, who injects funk and wah-wah effects into Rebel Music and Jammin', and gets bluesy on Lively Up Yourself. The 12-song set is impressive, using 5.1 digitally enhanced audio; any encores were not included.

The extras: On both discs there are newly recorded recollections that can be accessed interactively. Disc one's come from interviews with Marley's widow, Rita, and Marcia Griffiths, both of the I-Threes, and Island Records sound engineer Ng Tuck Choi. The women refer to his magnetic presence on and off stage, while Ng talks of the construction of music that people would have no choice but to move to. Disc two's extra clips come from staff at the Bob Marley Foundation and Museum.

The Caribbean Nights documentary is a goldmine of archive studio recordings in Kingston, overseas concerts and TV interviews. Fresh interviews with Marley's mother, childhood friends and musical associates - including ex-Wailer Peter Tosh - are edited into the mix, along with footage, past and present, of Marley's Jamaica, which includes his family's modest rural dwelling where he grew up. It also records the solemn construction of the musician's mausoleum in the year he dies and sheds a few rays of light on the birth of Rastafarianism in Jamaica. Though Marley's father was a white Englishman, his embrace of Jamaican black culture was total.

The verdict: If anyone, including fans of less commercial reggae, think they've heard all they need from the enduring face of Jamaican music, be open-minded enough to watch this DVD and you'll be impressed. Joined by accomplished musicians and the sublime I-Threes backing singers, Marley's live set entrances. The accompanying documentary paints a colourful picture of the man who put reggae on the global map.