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Concert Review: The Wailers

January 9, 2010

After publicly lamenting my inability to see The Wailers‘ show at Antone’s on 1/08/10 (Hmm…I publicly lament a lot don’t I?  Maybe I just covet a lot of concerts…), I made the decision to not leave the house at night until these unbearably cold temperatures were over.  But once Seanningham won FREE tickets on Thursday afternoon (you should be following KUT on Twitter!), I happily shed the first of my short-term New Year’s resolutions and we bundled up to brave the cold journey in order to make some college-aged dreams come true.

We’d been planning to see The Wailers on their annual stop in Austin since I moved here in 1999 and we “discovered” that they were still touring and playing Bob Marley songs.  Anyone who’s been to a terrible Bob Marley Festival in any city might feel our pain; why call it a Bob Marley festival if the bands’ covers of Bob Marley songs are not even close?  And P.S. – if your band has to start the same song over more than twice in a row, you might not be ready for a festival; if you have to start it over so many times that the crowd loses track of what’s going on, well, I think that speaks for itself.

We arrived at Antone’s shortly before The Wailers’ opening act, The Supervillians, took the stage.  If you follow AGMG on Twitter, you might have a clue of how I felt about The Supervillians…I have many, many complaints, so sorry fans.  First of all, the music itself is basically white-guy ska punk with a lot of reggae leads, but The Supervillians were also completely uninventive; it felt like a version of all the worst parts of 311 and Sublime mashed together.  Second, their set got worse as it went on, not better.  I’m not sure how that happens, but at first I used the word “competent” to describe them and by the end of their set, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.  I guess part of the reason is that they saved their most ridiculous songs for last, such as the closer, with “Hey, F**k You!!!” as a crowd-shouted refrain, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they walked out onto the stage and announced how high they were in the first place.

Having said that, apparently this band is really popular with a certain subset of angry 17-25 year old white boys who like to smoke a lot of marijuana, because those kids certainly knew The Supervillians’ lyrics and songs and were going totally nuts for them.  Which brings me to my next issue with the band.  Every song was either about how much The Supervillians love weed or about how much they love sex…not in a smooth Rasta way but in a crude frat boy way.  Do they think this qualifies as reggae?  And does the world honestly need more songs like this?  Nothing makes you feel as good as marijuana?  Seriously?  Nothing?  Wow.  Oh what’s that?  You also think you deserve oral sex because you’re “feeling lazy”?  Oh, right.  And making vulgar jokes in between songs that are too offensive to even mention here is not going to endear you to any thinking ladies in the audience.

Anyway, I think I’ve made my point.

Luckily The Wailers came out and fixed everything.  Lead by singer Yvad (aka Kevin Davy) and anchored by original Wailer Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the band certainly knows what the audience wants.  They started out the set with “Natural Mystic” from Exodus and played fantastic covers of pretty much every song from Exodus, as well as picking out popular songs from other Marley albums such as “Is This Love” from Kaya, “So Much Trouble in the World” from Survival, the great “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” and “Lively Up Yourself” from Natty Dread, and of course “Stir It Up” from one of the best reggae albums of all time, Catch A Fire.  The Wailers also get extra bonus points for pulling out the slightly more obscure “Thank You Lord” and “Punky Reggae Party” and for the lovely acoustic version of “Redemption Song” that stays true to the touching original.  They closed out the set with an extra-extra extended version of the song “Exodus” that gave each member of the band nods, while the audience slowly skanked to a stopping point.

The Wailers are definitively a cover band, but even so, Yvad infused their performances with a combination of originality and strict reverence for Marley’s work that makes them a great band to watch in addition to listen to, and he doesn’t try to strain his voice to sound exactly like Bob’s which is a plus in my book.  The musicians are also excellent, especially the lead guitarist, and I particularly loved the fact that they had a sax player to play the horn parts for authenticity’s sake.  If I had one suggestion (and you know that I do), it would be to take bigger risks with the setlist.  I mean, it was pretty obvious that most of the audience had really only been exposed to Exodus, probably during a couple of college parties, but maybe The Wailers would draw in more hardcore reggae fans if they dipped into the extensive Marley catalog a bit.

All in all, it was a great night (even considering The Supervillians) and it was so fun to hear Marley songs being played live by a really good band.  If you’re a Bob or reggae fan, you’ll definitely want to see The Wailers on their next pass through Austin.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela permalink
    January 10, 2010 6:04 pm

    I read your article on the “Concert Review of the Wailers”. You mistakingly referred to the
    lead singer as Elan Atias. That was not him performing that night. The name of the lead singer that night was YVAD a.k.a. Kevin Davy. I just wanted to inform you of your mistake.

    Thank You.

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