I don’t like to approach anything with any preconceived ideas about what is about to transpire, because absorbing such spoilers really only serves to create expectations. And let’s be honest, seldom does a thing live up to the grandeur that you’ve elevated it to in your mind’s eye. If you take an experience at face value, appreciating the moment for the inimitable episode that it is, the fulfillment is limitless. That tends to sound like a whole lot of cliche hippy-dippy propaganda — which I’ve been awfully overflowing with lately — but the cynic can rationalize it too: no expectations, no letdowns.
Now for a confession. In my excitement over scoring a pair of tickets to see Ziggy Marley live in Toronto for the debut show of his Fly Rasta tour, I started reading concert reviews and as hard as I tried to take it back, I developed some serious expectations. “Attending a Ziggy Marley concert is the closest thing to a reggae church service you can get, if such a thing officially existed.” As soon as I saw those words I knew I was ruined. My hopes for the concert soared and, against my own rules, I prepared myself for the greatest show I’ll surely ever see. Oops, my bad.
Thankfully, wonderfully, and unsurprisingly… Ziggy delivered.
And what a delivery it was. The man has some serious stage presence, there’s no denying that, though with a lineage like his you can’t help but expect it at least a little bit. He is a Marley after all and that name is legendary for a reason. Ziggy continues to spread the same lessons of love — a message that was palpable through his very themed set list — and he delivered it with that humble, thousand-watt smile that truly had me feeling and believing in the love. His spirit is undeniably intertwined in his music and I could (and want to) wax on, but I’ll spare you more of the hippy-dippy rhetoric.
I’ve been a reggae fan for a long time. Who isn’t, really? The one love and chucka-skat style behind a lot of it is pretty irresistible, and I’m at a loss to come up with anything that beats a positive message that can make you dance. I took a class on the history of Jamaican music during my university years; a bird course that turned out to be more of an intensive reggae boot camp but nonetheless gave me a real appreciation for the roots and guts behind the music and culture of the country. More recently, and particularly since my trip to Costa Rica, I’ve been on a serious reggae kick. Bob Marley became the soundtrack of our time there, which seems only fitting when you consider how well the pura vida spirit radiates with the Jah Love message. I’ve been vibing on it ever since. I got reggae in my head. I keep music playing during the vast majority of my every day, and ninety-nine percent of that has been roots, ska, and dub over the past few weeks. The majority of that has been Ziggy Marley, so just imagine my excitement upon checking up on tour dates and seeing that he was kicking off his brand new tour in Toronto this month. Yeah, excited doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Ziggy opened the show with Love Is My Religion, which set the tone for the string of inspirational songs of peace, love, and planet earth that followed. This opening was followed by herbal anthem, Wild and Free, which seemed either a prophetic choice or else an in-the-moment decision to call love for the little clouds of smoke floating over the crowd. Third in the set was I Don’t Wanna Live On Mars, a love-the-planet jam from his new album. The show began with my three absolute favorite Ziggy Marley songs and I’m not sure there’s a word fit to describe how I felt about that. How I still feel about that. Titles like Forward to Love, Personal Revolution, Conscious Party, and Give It Away followed and called for a clear message of love for and between everyone. Whether it was that message, the awesome delivery of it, or something else entirely, I felt it. Deep down in my soul. Cue the hippy-dippy.
In me, Ziggy was preaching to the converted. Like I said, I’m on this real love-one-another, zen, pura vida, chill wavelength lately — I’d call it a phase but that implies an end in the future. A more willing disciple would be hard to find in the crowd, but that’s not to suggest the audience wasn’t into it. The multi-ethnic, multi-generational, all-walks-of-life mosaic of reggae music fans was wonderful to witness and beautiful to be a part of. There we were, just bein’, just one, pulsing, good vibe. And when a chord was pulled from Bob’s catalogue, every single one of us sang out One Love to the open Toronto skies above us. Other Bob Marley jams included Lively Up Yourself and Iron Lion Zion.
All night long, the band was on point. The message was clear. The dancing was good. The music, phenomenal. All that’s not to forget the opening act, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, who kicked it all off in fun and style.
In summary? The love was tangible, and I’m so thankful to Ziggy for sharing it.