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Bob Marley & The Wailers – San Siro (Godfather Records GR 504 / 505)

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San Siro (Godfather Records GR 504 / 505)

Stadio San Siro Di Milano, Milan, Italy – June 27th, 1980

CD1 : I-Threes(Opening Band) – Intro / Precious Love / Slave Queen / Steppin’ Out Of Babylon / Thats The Way – Bob Marley & The Wailers – Intro / Natural Mystic / Positive Vibration / Revolution / I Shot The Sheriff / War – No More Trouble / Zimbabwe / Zion Train

CD2 : No Woman No Cry / Jammin’ / Exodus / Redemption Song / Natty Dread / Work / Kaya / Roots, Rock, Reggae / Is This Love / Could You Be Loved / Kinky Reggae / Get Up Stand Up. 

On the 27th of June, 1980 at the Tadio Giuseppe Meazza in San Siro, Milan in Italy Bob Marley played his largest show anywhere in the world ( and, indeed, in Italys history so far ) to a crowd of 120,000 gathered individuals with the support acts Roberto Ciotti, Pino Daniele & the Average White Band while also using his backing singers The I-Threes as support a la Bob Dylan’s Gospel tour. The Uprising tour was the last tour Marley would undertake before his untimely death in May next year but is very highly regarded & tonight would be the only time the band would play in Italy. 

The recording is an excellent Audience taping, recorded close to the speakers, picking up a lot of the bass noise that Reggae relies on to lift it’s groove but the bass is never over powering & won’t over shadow the performance although it does sound a little strange at the beginning as if the audience is seperated from the music by a margin although it’s something that your ears quickly get used to & the two meld together very well.  

The Tape starts with an introduction by the M.C. for the I-Threes before the trio launch in to their Wailers inspired tracks beginning with “Precious love”. They’re very much based on the style of Marleys tracks, a lilting, sunny pop slope without urgency. Once this finishes Sister Marcia introduces her two fellow vocalists – Sister Judy & Sister Rita – & explains that they’re here as an extra warm up for Brother Bob Marley’s main set.

None of the crowd show any dissatisfaction with this – They’re obviously soaking up the sun & the vibes around the park or, are at this time, just a little too stoned to care. The other three tracks bounce along pleasantly enough & serve to fulfill the feeling of the concert at the time in a fuller experience. “Slave Queen” is a track from Judy Mowatt’s 1979 album ‘Black Woman’ & “That’s The Way” was a current solo single for Rita Marley. 

For Bob Marleys section theres a jaunty, piano & bass led intro with stattaco jamming from organ, bongos & guitar punctuating throughout – also it’s difficult to tell if it’s in the introduction or someone in the audience has taken the ‘day out in the park’ scenario all to far but there’s the familiar sound of a dog barking somewhere. I’ve heard of this happening at a Bob Dylan concert but never thought that it might happen else where too – The set proper begins with “Natural Mystic” the opening track from ‘Exodus’ – Possibly Marleys biggest ever album. It’s a track that the crowd obviously all recognise & go wild for with Marley whipping the attended up at the start of it, hailing the ‘Mystic vibe’ that was carrying the mood around.

The setlist wouldn’t change very much throughout the Uprising tour with the exception of the later U.S. shows. The vibe continues with “Positive Vibration” a catchy, pogo-ing romp imploring the listener to give out a little happiness to get a little happiness back. The crowd, enthused by the message, clap & whistle along through out the track cheering louder through out the instrumental break obviously applauding Marley’s head swinging skanking dance. This flows straight in to Revolution a slower, more portentous slink which the audience lap up just as much as the previous song ( there really is no let up at a Bob Marley concert! ).

“I Shot The Sheriff” follows the track from the first Wailers album & famously covered By Eric Clapton on his ’461 Ocean Boulevard’ album from 1974 – the song that would be his only No. 1 single in the U.S.A – this is a fiery version played out tonight with Bob hollering out the lyrics  possibly aiming to take back the track as his own again or then again he could be putting back the meaning in to his song that he first considered – “I want to say ‘I shot The Police’ but the government would have made a fuss so I said ‘I shot the sheriff’ instead… but it’s the same idea: justice.”

The track that follows is “War / No More Trouble” taking inspiration from text by one of Marley’s heros Haile Selassie around the abolition of war & the weapons of destruction that herald it it’s message is clear – that everyone should live together in harmony – the very pinnacle of many of Marley’s messages. During this track the taper moves his equipment seemingly to record the reaction of the crowd who by now are lapping it up. “Zimbabwe” & “Zion Train” end the first disk – the former being the more politically based of the two addressing Africa’s rights & the power behind it, the latter another pean to God & the force that would save all of God’s believers.  

Disk two begins with one of Bob’s biggest hits “No Woman, No Cry”. The audience are louder, being closer to the mike again, enthusiastically clapping & chanting along to the song. The song is one of the tracks most steeped in Rock & Roll featuring a a crazy solo towards it’s end – possibly a homage of sorts to Eric Clapton for having made “I Shot The Sheriff” the hit that it was. “Jammin’” is next up, another track that the crowd know all too well & another track to feature rockish influences with a wobbly guitar line punctuating the coda to the song.

“Exodus” the title track to Marley’s ninth album & his comeback LP after his assassination attempt in December 1976. The title runs a heft 7 minutes on the album proper but never outstays it’s welcome, here it’s slightly abbreviated but loses none of it’s force or draw compelling the crowd to gut up once again. After the boisterous jolt of “Exodus” the “Redemption Song” comes as a delicate reflection & a chance for the audience to reach for their lighters. While the song rolls on, the dog barks again ( It’s obvious it wasn’t just part of the introduction then .. ) but it’s only brief & does nothing to ruin the track itself. “Natty Dread” is a personification of Rastafari – the culture that enveloped Marley & the one that he took to his heart . 

“Work is from the “Uprising” album so may not be as familiar to the audience as  some of the other songs played tonight & indeed doesn’t seem to elicit such an immediate response as some of the other songs as neither does “Kaya” having been buried on the album of the same name & not being the hit single from there. “Roots, Rock, Reggae” is another slower paced skank with more of an airy or empty atmosphere but this does allow the I-Three’s to bring their voices forward & harmonize a little more clearly. “Is This Love” is another track from “Kaya” & is obviously better known than the title track & more of a crowd pleaser. the concert is running in to it’s final stages now as the band draw some of their best known & loved tracks – “Could You Be Loved” being one of them. Employing a looping & buzzy guitar line, a tongue tying chorus & trampolineing  bass line – it’s ready made to put a smile on the face & it certainly gets the crowd back in the swing of things again with a call & reply chant towards the end.    

“Kinky Reggae” & “Get Up, Stand Up” bring the concert to an end in fine style the latter a raging bounce reminding the Italian people that it’s never the time to be complacent & once again Bob uses the call & response effect to great strength as the crown respond with gusto having been treated to a night of pure reggae brilliance.    

The Packaging is one of Godfathers finest featuring sepia toned pictures of Bob & a ticket from the event photoshopped on top of the Rastafarian colours with the inner reproducing numerous pictures of Marley live on stage & a run down of the full band live up. The extras are a peach too featuring a 4 page booklet featuring crowd pictures of the concert at San Siro colourised once again with the Rastafari colours – The Don has obviously had fun with this too colouring the three tiers of the stadium each in the red, green or gold band while the inner pages list the “Uprising” tour dates from 1980. The Extra addition is a miniature full colour poster for the concert backed with an alternate variation showing the “Uprising” album cover art.    

This really is an wonderful package – firstly the music is the subject to the right kind of atmosphere – never distorted ( despite the bass presence of a concert such as this ) or lacking in crowd participation – although this concert is round on the internet from the “soundboard” then it’s very probably a misnomer & this audience recording is all we’re likely to get. Regardless it’s excellent & will stand tall among the few Bob Marley boots that are available.

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

Bob Marley & The Wailers - San Siro (Godfather Records GR 504 / 505), 3.4 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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