Photo Gallery: The Wailers @ The Strand Theater, 04/22/2023
The Wailers had its origins as the late Bob Marley’s band. Bob passed away from cancer in 1981. Several spinoff projects continued the music after his death. The Wailers were formed in 1989 by bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett. They continued to perform the old catalog as well as adding new songs. They underwent many personnel changes and breakups through the years. “Family Man” has no more extended tours with the band, the band is now led by Aston Jr., who is a multi-instrumentalist, but for this band, he sits behind the drums. The present lineup has been in place since 2022, with the addition of Mitchell Brunings as lead vocalist.
Knowing that the band has released original music, including 2020’s Grammy-nominated “One World, One Prayer,” I didn’t know what musical selections would be played.
The band mostly drew from the immense legacy of Bob Marley’s compositions from the early 70s to posthumous releases from the early 80s.
The sequence of songs swayed from the songs raising social consciousness and struggle to simple love songs.
Opening was “Trenchtown Rock,” a song about Marley’s hood, Trenchtown, a slum built around a landfill, and how music was used to help the residents get by. This was followed by “Is This Love.”
A more raw description of Trenchtown is “Concrete Jungle,” complete with a distorted guitar solo by ace guitarist Wendel “Junior Jazz” Ferraro expressing the extreme poverty and despair of ghetto life. Followed by “ Satisfy My Soul,” a sweet love song. “Get Up Stand Up’ is a call to resistance. “Stir it Up,” a love song, and Three Little Birds, a song celebrating life. Destiny 1 of 2 post-Marley songs, a longing for a missing love. ”One Love,” the song made famous by a marketing campaign by the Jamaica Tourism Bureau. Other notable songs were the dark “ No More Trouble,” a call for peace, and the call to party “Lively Up Yourself.” “Buffalo Soldier” is about the mostly forgotten African American Cavalry units participating in the Indian Wars. Complete with Mitchell giving a salute as a token of respect.
When they took the stage, Mitchell Brunnings and backup singers Tamara Barnes and Alecia Marie were in motion, grooving and dancing to the rhythms. Mitchell Brunings was incredibly expressive, from pointing at the audience to get a reaction, gesturing to his head to tell people to think, and the previously mentioned salute.
Without the drums and the bass, there is no reggae. Aston Barrett and Owen “Dreadie” Reid kept the steady beat and groove with little fanfare.
Junior Jazz played tasty solos to fill in the sound as needed and was also spotlighted when he sang the other contemporary hip hop-influenced song, “One World, One Prayer.”
The only song without an insistent beat was “Redemption Song.” Owen stepped up to the front of the stage to sing it with Mitchell; the song urges the listeners to “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” because “None but ourselves can free our minds.”
Although this music and lyrics are over 50 years old, songs about struggle, justice, redemption, and love are still quite relevant today. Peace and love, pass it forward.
- Aston Barrett Jr. – drums
- Mitchell Brunings – vocals
- Owen ”Dreadie” Reid – bass
- Wendel ”Jr. Jazz” Ferraro – guitar vocals
- Andres Lopez – keyboards
- Tamara “Teena” Barnes – vocals
- Alecia Marie – vocals