Gig review: Junior Warvin’s Wailers at Warehouse 23, Wakefield

Junior Marvin
Junior Marvin
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“Do you remember Bob Marley?” Junior Marvin asks the crowd assembled before him at Wakefield’s Warehouse 23.

It is surely a rhetorical question from the veteran musician; after all, Marley’s spirit lingers around the room in the bright Caribbean flags draped in corners to the heavily commercialised range of merch bearing his name, including cigarette papers and bikini tops.

The Wailers featuring Marvin – one of a handful of acts touring under the moniker of reggae’s most famous band – are essentially a tribute act to the genre’s elder statesman. But Marvin is no passable imitator; as de facto leader, vocalist and guitarist, he delivers a finely-tuned set of classic cuts and more which he approaches with a freshness that keeps heavy nostalgic vibes at bay.

Despite being promoted as a performance of greatest hits record Legend in its entirety, only two-thirds of the compilation makes an appearance. Indeed, Marvin eschews the more obvious selections initially – no Is This Love, no Buffalo Soldier – in favour of lesser-known but equally joyous gems, such as the calypso sun-jam of Rastaman Vibration and the hazy groove of Roots, Rock, Reggae.

Back by a seven-piece outfit, Marvin injects his own personality – and sonic identity – into tracks through stuttering, staccato fretwork and tempo changes – when performing Three Little Birds, he carries the collective joy it conveys through a growling melody, and speeds up the pre-chorus of No Woman, No Cry into an unabashed gospel-stomp.

“I had a dream I played in Wakefield and now it’s a reality!” he cries before Stir It Up, clearly having a ball underneath his sunglasses and badge-festooned baseball cap.

One of the bigger surprises is that of a new track, Children, being aired early on, which fits seamlessly in with the rest without feeling derivative, complete with elongated soloing. If any drawback is to be made, it is that Marvin’s deviation from the expected does indeed curtail that nostalgic warmth that perhaps many come for.

But these are minor quibbles across a fabulously-sounding evening. “Do you want more?” he shouts after a semi-solo rendition of Redemption Song. As he answers the affirmative with a strident, bouncy Could You Be Loved, it’s apparent that, yes, Wakefield remembers Bob Marley; but they remember Marvin and the Wailers with just as much affection

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