The night started with the selections of the veteran Italian deejay Vito War and by the live set of the upcoming reggae band from Grosseto Quartiere Coffee.
Being only the second time in his life that Bunny Wailer has come to Italy the expectations were quite high and you could feel it when the lights went down and the Solomonic Orchestra started to play. Before Bunny appeared on stage, the two backing vocalists warmed up the audience with Dawn Penn’s No No No and Bob Andy and Marcia Griffith’s Always Together.
Then it was time for the original Wailer to step on the stage: dressed beautifully in white with a red, gold and green scarf and sunglasses he started with Rastaman Chant and Baldhead Jesus (in which he added a couple of verses of the gospel classic Old Time Religion) before going to the Blackheart Man album catalogue with Rastaman, Blackheart Man, Armagideon, Fighting Against Convictions and Dreamland, which gained him the first pull up of the night.
After the Blackheart Man session he highlighted another crucial album of his career, Rock ‘n’ Groove, from which, among others, he played the strictly rub-a-dub Ballroom Floor, the sweet Rootsman Skanking and the famous Cool Runnings, and then finished his solo repertoire with two of his biggest tunes, Don Dada and Rule Dancehall.
If the first part of his show was dedicated to his solo career, the second one was a journey back on memory lane to Kingston during a time when three young guys started their life in music, bringing the vibrations from their little island all over the world. With Trenchtown and Trenchtown Rock Bunny reminded us where this music came from, then went on with No Woman No Cry, Easy Skanking, The Heathen and then went to Legalize It to pay his respect to the late great Peter Tosh.
Before the show ended Bunny took some time to talk to the audience saying: “I’ve always wanted to be in this kind of vibration, the reggae vibration, with all the wonderful people out there, give thanks! This great music has lived, and has survived all kinds of tribulations, and we’ve lost brother Bob Marley, the great legacy, Peter Tosh and all the wonderful people that have been playing this great music. Some of them are not here tonight but they will be hearing about us being here tonight, big time!” and then dropped Keep On Moving closing his show unexpectedly with no encores.
Bunny performed for nearly two hours dancing and skanking on stage and even attempting a header to one of the giant balloons launched by the organisers during the show: his voice might not be at its best anymore, but he is a giant of this music, and being able to witness him performing live was for me an absolute joy.