The Wailers were a reggae group formed in 1963 by Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. As years went by, they added more backing musicians and vocalists such as Junior Braithwaite, Cherry Smith, and Aston Barrett. They changed even more in 1974 when Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the band to pursue their own career goals. This led to Marley forging a new lineup with musicians such as Junior Marvin, Al Anderson, and the “I Threes,” which was a backing vocal trio that included Bob’s wife, Rita.
Sadly, after so long, Bunny Wailer is the only member of the initial Wailers trio that is still living. Now, the Wailers are carrying on the tradition of bringing positive vibrations to the world with new and old band members. Aston Barrett, the original bass player of the Wailers, has been joined by his sons Aston Barrett Jr. and Josh David Barrett, along with Wailers guitarist Junior Marvin, and guitarist Donald Kinsey. Javaughn Bond plays the keys and Shema McGregor leads a backup vocal duo that dawns apparel uncanny to that of the I Threes. Now, they all tour the world in hopes of keeping the Rastaman Vibration alive. They came to New Orleans last year to headline Bayou Boogaloo, and they returned this year to continue the Jazz Festivities on the first Sunday night.
The evening opened with local reggae/gospel group, The Zion Trinity Band, who own a shop on Bayou Road called King and Queen Emporium. Three female vocalists sing and dance together while backed by a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. The second supporting artist was DJ T-Roy, another local act, known for his reggae and dancehall mixes.
The Wailers went on at about 11pm, after the crowd had been properly limbered for a long night of reggae. Obviously, the big elephant in the room when seeing the new Wailers is “What about Bob?” (Not the Bill Murray movie.) Well, Bob Marley’s presence has been filled by Aston Barrett’s son Josh David Barrett, who splendidly enough, looks quite like Bob. His vocals were on point, as well as his energy and dance moves, swaying and bouncing peacefully. He even wore an outfit exactly like Bob wore during their famous recorded performance in Boston in 1979.
Of course, they played all the hits, all the classic Wailers tunes. The band's fire hasn’t dwindled, either. In fact, they may even be better now, having performed these songs for so long, as they impressively extended some of the more popular tunes. They performed an uplifting version of “Three Little Birds,” which was fused with “One Love.” Indeed the Wailin' Wailers jammed “Jammin’” for their final song of the night, which was very well done. Each member had a chance to show off their skill. When they came back out for an encore, it was as if they had only just begun. Maybe it was that special something in the air again, but the encore could have been as long as the initial set. To start, Josh David Barrett announced that they had written a new song and they performed “Stand Firm,” which was rather more poppy and ballad-ish than any previous Wailers song. Luckily, it wasn’t the final song, because the Wailers won the crowd back with more favorites, all played to perfection: “Redemption Song,” “Lively Up Yourself>Some Like it Hot,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Get Up Stand Up>Everywhere is War>No More Trouble.” It was beautiful to see such a seasoned group play for so long and jam the hell out of some of the most known songs in the world. Their final encore song was “Exodus.” And Jah people moved on to the next week of Jazz Fest.