feat. Ghetto Youths International
The Universal Amphitheatre
Universal City, CA
Sunday July 26, 1998

In the early evening it was impossible to see past the next corner of the engineered meandering of Universal CityWalk, a tribute to the antiquated notion of walking in Los Angeles. Bereft of the random encounters and myriad aims of the ordinary city street, the only variable not in firm control was the 97 degrees of windless heat.

While Angelenos paced slowly past the neon of a 20-cinema multiplex and the 4-story guitar outside the faux-Taj Mahal Hard Rock Cafe, the twisting corridors of new Babylon finally revealed the marquee of the Universal Amphitheatre, and the imminent presence of Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers.

Like a cool breeze, the Melodys brought a lovely respite to the sultry Sunday evening. Beginning with a stomping "Power To Move Ya," Ziggy and Sharon set a rapid pace for the 12-song set. The band's prodigious sound was laced with wicked saxphone and trumpet lines, particularly within the opener, and later in the encore "Justice." The horns are a welcome addition to the band's mix of dancehall and reggae.

Ziggy and Stephen traded lead vocals on a variety of songs from the '97 release 'Fallen Is Babylon.' The haunting "Jah Bless" and "Postman" were interspersed with sing-a-long versions of father Bob's "Three Little Birds" and "Jammin'." On "Day By Day" the young Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley delivered a ragga cameo, pushing the crowd in the pit to bounce to the rhythm.

Late in the set, Stephen laid down fierce bongo percussion on the anthem "Free Like We Want 2 B." Ziggy's composition rails against self-destruction and poses the question: without mental freedom, can we be truly free? The encore performance and refrain of "Justice" confirms that true freedom for all is nowhere close in this reality:
'Justice / Why do they do the wrong / Justice / I just can't find / Justice / I don't know why'

The stirring blues of Justice were followed by the uplifting chords of "Look Who's Dancing," before the Melodys closed with the crowd-pleaser "Could You Be Loved." Several members of the newest Marley generation passed the mic, continuing a family tradition that began with father Bob's tours in the late '70s.

The night opened with a short set from Irish singer Francis Dunnery, who played to a respectful crowd. Dunnery's folk-pop tunes gave way quickly to the second act, Ghetto Youths International. Decked in camouflage and black boots, the Ghetto Youths spat ragga rhythms on "Revolution & War" and a new interpolation of Bob's "Roots, Rock, Reggae." Though the 30-minute set left little room for extended jamming, the crew of younger Marleys Damian and Julian traded dancehall refrains to move the energetic crowd in the pit.

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