By Fred Shuster
While Dodger fans saw new pitcher Brad Penny injure his arm in the first inning of Sunday’s game, fans at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday could be assured that great Bunny Wailer, 57, hasn’t lost his fastball.
The man known to his mom as Neville O’Riley Livingston brought his high tenor voice, crack 11-member band and soulful r&b-drenched golden-age reggae grooves to the mellowest assembly of 17,300 seen in the 213 area code since the world’s Buddhist monks held their convention downtown a few years ago.
Wailer, a founding member of the Wailers in the ’60s before the marketing guys turned it into Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1974, appeared regal in a white cape, multicolored tie and a braided ponytail that hung to the back of his knees Sunday. The unofficial patron saint of Humboldt County offered a little pro-pot sermonizing along with pungent readings of such easy-skanking songs as “Rock ‘n’ Groove,” “Cool Runnings” and fellow Wailer Peter Tosh‘s anthemic “Legalize It.”
An international crowd of all ages danced along with the ingenious heartbeat rhythm provided by one of the tightest and most accomplished reggae outfits to appear on a local stage in some time. Wailer, whose voice sometimes resembles Curtis Mayfield’s and boasts a back catalog deep as Marvin Gaye’s, has been transformed from a reticent, sometimes moody frontman to an exuberant, lively performer. The Bowl responded loudly.
Unlike the scene at Dodger Stadium just hours earlier, Wailer’s fans stayed until the last inning.
Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676 and firstname.lastname@example.org