Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
The Original Wailers, led by guitarist Al Anderson – not to be confused with the Wailers, led by Ashton “Family Man” Barrett, who apparently played at Club Helsinki in Hudson the following night – were jammin’ at the Corning Preserve Boat Launch under the currently-under-construction I-787 highway, an alternate site to the original rain site of the Palace Theatre.
The Palace may not have been big enough to hold the large, enthusiastic crowd who came to experience some of the music of Bob Marley, but who also got an introduction to the band’s music from Miracle, the Grammy-nominated EP, produced by Anderson.
The Original Wailers last appeared at an Alive at Five in 2009 with original Wailer Junior Murvin, who has since left the band. Desi Hyson, formerly of the band Culture with Joe Hill, stepped in as keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter of the band’s new music. Also from Culture was bass player Steve Samuels. Tyrone Downie, who has played with many reggae bands including Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse and Burning Spear, returned to double on keyboards. Drummer Francis Paapa Nyarkoh from Ghana, West Africa, and vocalist Erica Newell, formerly with Ziggy Marley’s Melody Makers, added much to the band’s rhythmic sound.
The band played classic numbers from the Wailers’ historic catalogue, including “Rastaman Vibration,” “Three Little Birds” (one of several sing-a-longs in the set) and “Jammin’,” in which they were.
Throughout the show, however, it seemed that the band’s newest material featured the best grooves and, unlike in a lot of tribute-style shows, really seemed to please the crowd. “Justice” (which featured a dedication to Trayvon Martin) and “Dangerous” both found Hyson in fine voice, not attempting to mimic Marley, but successfully adding his own authentic reggae style to the mix.
The band seemed to make a good connection with the crowd, at one point singing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member, who was invited up to sing. Anderson asked for requests for the encore, resulting in a slow, spiritual “Redemption Song.”
Nippertown band Mirk, opened with a set that mixed reggae, hip-hop, soul, rock and more in a funky mix of originals and covers.
UPCOMING: Albany’s weekly Alive at Five summer concert series wraps up on Thursday (August 8) with a pair of homegrown country bands – Skeeter Creek and Whiskey City. The show starts at 5pm at Jennings Landing (formerly Riverfront Park) in Albany’s Corning Preserve. Admission is free.