Perhaps the most striking thing about Eagle Rock’s new Bob Marley concert DVD Uprising Live! is just how vibrant and stunningly alive he looks. Watching this 1980 performance from the rear-view perspective of history 35 years later, you’d never know that Bob Marley’s body was already being ravaged by cancer, and that he would be dead less than a year later.
On Uprising Live!, Bob Marley is a house of hell-fire and raging, righteous brimstone. A whirling dervish of flying dreads and pure, primal shamanistic energy. Historical significance aside, this alone is what makes Uprising Live! such a joy to watch.
The sound and picture quality are not always perfect. If anything, the source material (taken from a 1980 broadcast of the German TV music showcase Rockpalast), will bring back instant memories of those old VHS tapes gathering dust in your garage.
But given what they had to work with, Cedella and Ziggy Marley have done an admirable job of restoring the footage. Whatever flaws there are can also be overlooked when you consider the curious lack of officially released live Bob Marley concert footage out there, and especially when the performance is as good as this.
Backed by an expanded, eight-piece version of the Wailers and his backup vocal trio the I-Threes, Marley runs through a tightly paced set that mixes the crowd pleasing hits like “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Positive Vibration” and “Could You Be Loved?” with his more spiritually and politically charged material like “Natural Mystic,” “War/No More Trouble” and “Revolution.”
The I-Threes (Bob’s wife Rita, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths) also warm the crowd up with their own short, four-song set.
But the show really hits its stride with a pair of songs from Bob Marley’s classic 1977 album Exodus. For “Jamming,” the expanded Wailers settle into a thick groove that owes as much to the 1970s funk of Sly and the Family Stone as it does to Marley’s bread and butter reggae.
The title track “Exodus” is the real show-stopper though. Here, the rhythm section of bassist Aston Barrett and drummer Carlton Barrett provide the launchpad for an extended jam, with keyboardists Earl Lindo and Tyrone Downie, and guitarists Junior Marvin and Al Anderson stretching things out into trance-like territory. Marley delivers his own performance from something resembling an out-of-body experience, with the I-Threes completing the ritual in a conga line off the stage. It’s a powerful close to the main set.
Marley returns for several encores, beginning with a stunning rendering of “Redemption Song” which starts out solo acoustic, before the rest of the Wailers eventually join in one by one. This is followed by several of Bob Marley’s biggest hits including “Is This Love?,” “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Lively Up Yourself.” Despite a few minor imperfections, for now Uprising Live! serves as the long overdue live document from one of music’s greatest legends that his fans have so long waited for. Hopefully, it will be the first of many more to come.
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