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The Wailers

  • Barrymore 2070 Atwood Avenue Madison, WI, 53704 United States (map)

The Wailers have lasted in some form or another since 1963, when the group was a vocal trio consisting of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingston. But the group in its current form has been a longstanding touring act since Marley's death in 1981, led by the internationally celebrated bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett. Barrett's deliberate feel, melodic ingenuity, huge sound and flawless timing were, and still are, incalculably enormous influences on reggae and dub bass playing. He's frankly inextricable from the genre, since he played on what must easily be hundreds of recordings aside from Marley's work: bassists from the great session player Robbie Shakespeare (who Barrett taught) to British postpunk musician Jah Wobble all acknowledge Barrett's importance. His brother Carlton (murdered in 1987) made a similarly immense contribution to reggae drumming, and it isn't a stretch to say that Barrett is one of the most renowned reggae musicians still alive and working today.

It's worth it alone to see a genuine icon at work in a live setting, but the group also currently includes Junior Marvin, who played with the Wailers both with and without Marley for decades. (Note: He is not the same person as Junior Murvin, who wrote and recorded the deathless reggae classic "Police And Thieves.") This group also consists of what is as close to the actual Wailers as possible; an ensemble led by late-period guitarist Al Anderson and no other Marley-associated members, confusingly called the Original Wailers, also toured recently. Nevertheless, the Barrett/Marvin Wailers will certainly do justice to Marley's justly famed songs, and it's an opportunity to see some living legends play the music they helped bring to global attention. —Mike Noto