When the late Bob Marley's former band the Wailers broke into his anthemic "Rastaman Vibration" on Monday night at the Palace, it was hard not to reflect on the bad vibrations suffered by this combo--from Marley's death from brain cancer in 1981 to the murders last year of drummer Carlton Barrett and founding member Peter Tosh.
Still, there was no sense of grieving or self-pity surrounding the Wailers' performance. This is a group of eight seasoned pros, and, propelled by the thundering bass of original Wailer Aston Barrett, they pumped out those trademarked Jamaican syncopations to a joyous full house of modern-day Rastas of every color--college kids, surfers and anyone else into dat heavy riddim, mon. Singer Junior Marvin doesn't have Marley's range or distinctive style, but he's an affable enough performer. The typical new Wailers song also lacks the poetry and depth of Marley's best material: Most of the social observations and metaphysical revelations have given way to more standard themes like "love is forever."
With some of the songs paying homage to reggae's soul-music and Motown roots while aiming for contemporary dance appeal, the Wailers also seem to be torn between musical styles. Still, this is a band that could play the phone book and make it dance.