Photo by Matt Stensland
Jamaica natives and current Steamboat Springs residents, from left, Merlene Wallace, Clover Williams, Marsha Gray and Delroy Shirley attend The Wailers concert Wednesday night during the sixth annual Ski Jam music festival.
On the 'Net
See an audio slideshow of The Wailers' performance Wednesday at Ski Jam online at www.steamboatpilo...>
There was only one lull in The Wailers' consistently bouncy Wednesday night set at Ski Jam.
The band had left the stage after charging through the powerhouse trio of songs - "Turn Your Lights Down Low," "Three Little Birds" and "One Love/People Get Ready" - that ends Bob Marley & The Wailers' classic 1977 album, "Exodus."
Lead singer Elan Atias returned to the stage a few minutes later, backed only by the band's guitarist. He leaned back, crouched down and delivered a stripped-down version of "Together As One," the unity-themed title ballad from his 2006 debut solo CD.
Considering that this was the only song in The Wailers' set that was written after 1980, "Together As One" was a gutsy beginning-of-the-encore choice. But the song showcases the traits Atias' voice and songwriting style have in common with Bob Marley's, with a simple, hopeful refrain: "Together as one, we're moving on."
The song could have gone over better than it did. But there wasn't any other reasonable way to back down from the crazy positive energy of "One Love" and transition into the heartfelt protest of "Redemption Song," which Atias started belting in the middle of his own song.
One of the best singers The Wailers have had in the band's many personnel changes since Marley's death in 1981, Atias has a natural ease with the power and faithful desperation that made songs like "Three Little Birds" so uplifting and tracks like "Redemption Song" so compelling.
Backed by a band that is anchored by longtime Wailers member Aston "Family Man" Barrett on bass, a solid horn section and unbreakable reggae rhythm, Atias ran through the 10 songs on "Exodus" to a "Get Up Stand Up" finale with an unstoppable energy that easily translated to an eager audience.
The album runs just a little longer than 35 minutes, a time limit The Wailers worked around with a handful of killer horn solos and plenty of audience-wide hand clapping. These songs have been around for more than 30 years, which could take away from the impact of seeing them played live - but that wasn't the point of Wednesday's show. The point was that because those songs have held their spot in a genre for three decades, everyone in the Steamboat Music Festival Tent knew them, and everyone danced and sang along.
It would be close to impossible to walk out of a concert like that without a smile on your face. And on Wednesday, no one leaving the Steamboat Music Festival Tent accomplished the impossible.