Wailers 2.22.20

The Wailers perform at the Bourbon Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

On Saturday, The Wailers came to the Bourbon Theatre for the last show of its world tour. The band was formed by the remaining members of Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1981 after the death of frontman and reggae legend Bob Marley that same year. The group is working to carry on the legacy of the late music icon, with a few of the original members of the band still playing with the group.

The Wailers is comprised of guitarist Wendel Ferraro, bassist Aston Barrett, drummer Aston Barrett Jr., vocalist Joshua David Barrett, keyboardist Andres Lopez and Shema McGregor, who provides backup vocals and harmonies for the group. All of the mentioned members flooded the Bourbon’s stage.

A tapestry hung behind the band, covered in images of Bob Marley, the Jamaican flag, the band members and the iconic depiction of the Lion of Judah — a religious symbol with which Marley regularly associated. All of these images were lit by a blacklight, creating white stenciling around the entire weave of imagery while bathing the entire scene in blue, green and purple pastel lights. Slowly, the audience trickled into the venue as reggae played softly in the background.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and Ferraro announced, “Alright, we’re ready to go.” The pastel lights changed to yellow, red and green, drenching the crowd as the group began its feel-good set.

The group entered with “Steppin’ Out of Babylon,” led by McGregor with accompanying vocals from Ferraro. The song perfectly introduced the laid-back ambiance with funky keyboards, punchy guitar riffs and crisp drum patterns — all backed by soulful and powerful vocals.

The group quickly glided into “Soul Shake Down Party,” which was exactly what the title implies — a party. The crowd members came alive, throwing their hands into the air in sync with the glossy melodies and rhythms created by The Wailers. After a groovy electric piano solo from Lopez at the song’s conclusion, the band welcomed the group’s new frontman, Joshua David Barrett.

Joshua introduced the venue to his crooning, high-octave vocals with “Rastaman Chant.” With every member of the group on stage, “The Heathen” allowed them to flex their musical muscles. The song also included a vibrating guitar solo, another slick, buttery-smooth keyboard solo and concluded with a crunchy, locomotive drum solo.

The group’s setlist gave Ferraro multiple opportunities to show off his legendary guitar skills, with crackling guitar tones present on “Concrete Jungle,” “Rebel Music” and “Jamming.” The Wailers focused on delivering the music, with very little time between each song. Most flowed from one to the next, only pausing for extended  applause. However, Joshua paused to briefly wish the band’s former leader a late happy birthday — Marley would have celebrated his 75th on Feb. 6. Beyond that quick pause, Joshua took time to thank the parents in the crowd who brought their kids to the all-ages show and spread the music of Marley and The Wailers.

There were several songs where the band encouraged the audience to sing along or clap to the beat. The most notable of the times was on “Stir It Up.” This Wailers classic invited the women in the venue to sing the instantly recognizable lyrics, “Stir it, stir it together,” then the men to do the same. Soon, the entire venue was singing along.

The highlight of the show came near the end of the group’s set, with a beguiling performance of “One Love / People Get Ready.” By the song’s conclusion, the whole audience sang along and danced together, arms laced around one another. The lights turned onto the audience during the song to create a palpable feeling of unity in the venue. Complete strangers sang and danced with one another.

At the start of the set, The Wailers promised to end its tour with a bang — the promise was delivered. The group’s reggae fueled, funk-infused set was equal parts heartrending tribute to Bob Marley and stand-alone reggae show from some of the genre’s most legendary musicians. The group did an outstanding job of continuing Marley’s legacy and reminding us why his music has remained so meaningful in the reggae sphere and beyond.