Bob Marley – The Legend – Live Review

Mark Boydell has reviewed the DVD of Bob Marley’s 1979 performance at Santa Barbara’s County Bowl which comes with a suprisingly large amount of extras and good image and sound.

1979 – the Santa Barbara Bowl. Fresh from half a dozen dates in Harlem – an attempt from his management to sell him to the African American community – Bob Marley arrives on stage, nonchalant as ever. The audience, almost exclusively white, are thriving on expectancy and Bob and band don’t fail to deliver. The band rips through song after song and Bob seemingly relives each one, amplifying the message with exaggerated stage gestures.

With the charts filled to the brim with talentless prats, it’s unsurprising that the likes of Marley are still revered across generational gaps as one of the greatest songwriters/performers. His dance routines are rather rusty, his sprawling band can occasionally be a little loose and his clothes seem to have been picked up at Oxfam but you can’t beat him for charisma or stage presence. The songs were a wide choice from his ample repertoire but thankfully avoids being a “greatest hits” concert. That night they played:

  • Positive Vibration
  • Wake Up And Live
  • Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)
  • Concrete Jungle
  • I Shot The Sheriff
  • Ambush In The Night
  • Running Away
  • Crazy Bald Head
  • Heathen
  • Africa Unite
  • Natty Dread,
  • One Drop
  • Exodus
  • Zimbabwe
  • So Much Things To Say
  • Is This Love
  • Jamming
  • Kinky Reggae
  • Stir It Up
  • Get Up Stand Up

The DVD:
The image:
Given the age of the material, the image is more than acceptable. The colours are a little too vivid at times and there’s a certain amount of colour bleed due to the source material – this makes the image quite soft but that’s pretty much unavoidable. The transfer is anamorphic in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio – I’m unsure if that was supposed to be the correct ratio but it works quite well and leaves sufficient headroom. The transfer is not going to set the world on fire but it’s a pretty good transfer given the circumstances.

The sound:
We are offered two mixes: a stereo and a 5.1 mix. Though I’ve seen some pretty impressive 5.1 mixes of concerts, in this case, it’s a bit of a waste of time – the music sounds too diluted in the 5.1 mix and it adds very little to the stereo version bar give the audiennce a bit more presence. That said the 5.1 obsessives will be happy and the purists will stick to the stereo mix. The quality of the sound is also quite good – there’s the odd sound loss and the sound could have a bit more “oomph” to it, but I suspect that’s also due to the source material.

The extras:
Introduction (5 mins): Though he gets a bit overexcited – claiming Marley’s smile at the end of Exodus is worth the price of the DVD seems a tad exaggerated – Salewicz does provide a succint introduction to the concert and places it historically and politically.

Documentary: A rather substantial piece (52 mins!) comprising interviews with Marley and band, archival footage and much more. The film looks at Marley’s Rastafari faith and the times he was living in and is an interesting insight into the man behind the music. I must confess I had some trouble understanding Marley’s speech at times but thankfully subtitles are included – a great addition as without them, I would have only been guessing!

Footage of Fans (5 mins): The footage comes from an LA concert of which no gig footage exists but features Sugar Ray Robinson talking about Marley as well as a cosmopolitan mix of fans explaining what Marleys music means for them.

Bonus track: A rendition of War/No More Trouble that was not included in the original film but it’s nice to see them add it here for our perusal. It seems to have been excluded more for running time than anything else.

Globally, the extras are very good indeed – maybe the documentary could have used some editing down but it’s a real pleasure to see a music DVD with such a large amount of decent extras.

The film itself has remained in the vaults for an inordinate amount of time and the DVD release is a great opportunity to see Marley live. The extras will make this a must buy for any Marley fan and globally the amount of work invested in this release makes is a very good release indeed.

Mark Boydell

Updated: Sep 21, 2003

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