Eight-time Grammy winner Stephen “Ragga” Marley recently kicked off his two-month 2019 Acoustic Jams Tour, and the House of Blues New Orleans was stop number 3. The tour announcement came behind the November release of One Take: Acoustic Jams, an album recorded in his Miami living room.
“It was just a jam at home, but we set up two mics. That’s why it’s called One Take, because that’s how it was done—in one take,” explained Marley in a statement.
The 11-track project, in which Marley sings lead and plays guitar and percussion, features renditions of his previously recorded songs, along with songs by his legendary father, Bob Marley.
"You have to experience the acoustic vibe. It’s not very often that we do it, so it's rare. The vibrations are high when the songs are broken down, and the spirits in the room are elevated," Marley said in a statement describing the tour.
With nothing but a couple of guitars, three drums, a flute, a saxophone, and a bass, Marley and band members Javaughn Bond (bass), Ranoy Gordon (guitar), Nicholas Laraque (saxophone and clarinet), and Craig Taylor (bass drum), elevated spirits indeed, filling the air with joyous, infectious energy. With Marley and band members still in chairs for most of the show, the focus turned to the emotion fed to the audience through the night. Most of the musicians kept their eyes closed, pouring all their energy into their individual instruments. Specifically, Marley would often laugh, throw his head and dreadlocks back, and roll his upper body forward into each strike of his drum. It was as if Marley and band members were in their own musical paradise and were courteous enough to welcome us in for a listen.
The majority of One Take was included in the set, with such songs performed as “Small Axe,” “Mind Control,” “All Day,” “Hold on to This Feeling,” “The Mission,” “Real Good Time,” and “Hey Baby” (a song he took the time to explain is about his children, contrary to popular belief that it is about a woman). Another highlight moment of the show was when he changed the hook lyrics in “The Mission,” a song by him and his brother Damien Marley, from “from Egypt to Zimbabwe” to “from Louisiana to Jamaica,” which got a roaring response from the crowd.
Keeping spirits high, there was a good bit of “call and response” crowd engagement from Marley throughout the evening. Many times, he’d scream “Yeah!” and get the same call back from the audience in response, or he’d yell “Jah!” with the subsequent, expected response of “Rastafari!” from the crowd. At one point, he simply asked for everyone to repeat and yell “love!” after him, five times.
In addition to songs from One Take, Marley did other classic songs, originally by his dad, that the crowd swayed and shouted lyrics to, such as “Everything’s Gonna be Alright,” and, as a part of his four-song encore, “Could You Be Loved” and “Jammin.’”
Stephen began playing guitar as a child; he recalls following in the footsteps of his father, whom he said always carried his acoustic guitar with him and strummed at it constantly. Marley wore a Rasta flag patch on his sleeve with his father’s birth year stitched on it, and, as many often comment, his raspy, soothing voice sounded astonishingly like his father’s. Listeners could close their eyes and feel as if they were at a Bob Marley show; the experience and resemblance in sound was eerie and, simultaneously, touching and beautiful.
The 2019 Acoustic Jams Tour will continue through March, with its next stop in Austin, TX, and its final stop in Hollywood, CA.