For more than two hours on Sunday night at Crossroads KC, Marley kept the crowd dancing and singing with a set that mostly ignored his father’s catalog and only briefly touched on his formative early career with the Melody Makers.
Nearly every Marley tune is a love song in one form or another. His laid-back philosophy of love and togetherness might sound generic until you consider how darn near impossible it has been to implement. His message of peace and unity might sound preachy on paper, but your feet would say otherwise.
Much of the set list drew from Marley’s latest, self-titled album. Marley played seven of the record’s dozen cuts, and they made up some of the best moments of the night.
“Love Is a Rebel” is an infectious dance tune that turned into a nice bass-and-drums dub workout at the end. The gentle name given to “Butterflies” masks the strident lyrics and forceful spirit of the music, and ranks up there with the elder Marley’s best protest songs. The gospel-tinged “Amen” was another strong number.
A cover of “One Love” drew a big response early in the set. The crowd filling two-thirds of the Crossroads lawn didn’t even wait for Marley to start singing before belting out the words during the instrumental introduction. Marley returned to his dad’s catalog for “Is This Love” during the encore.
The song “Love Is My Religion” is the perfect distillation of Marley’s theology. Singing the last verse accompanied only by his guitar, Marley got the whole crowd to join in on the chorus. The next song, “We Are the People,” reinforced Marley’s point perfectly, proclaiming “we’re not donkeys or elephants.”
After the pair of serious numbers, Marley reached back to 1989 and his days with the Melody Makers for “Look Who’s Dancing.” The party was propelled by a clavinet groove that sounded like a cousin to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” The song also featured a great toasting rap from the rhythm guitarist at the back of the stage.
The night ended with a note of hope and another new song. The bubbly “Weekend’s Long” lived up to its title by delaying the start of another workweek a little longer.
Setlist: Marijuanaman, Black Cat, Start It Up, Moving Forward, Amen, True to Myself, Butterflies, Forward to Love, One Love (Bob Marley cover), Beach in Hawaii, Ceceil, Love Is My Religion, We Are the People, Look Who’s Dancing. Encore: Wild and Free, Reggae in My Head, Love Is a Rebel, Is This Love (Bob Marley cover), Weekend’s Long.