Stephen Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, turned 35 last Friday (yes, 4/20); last night, Stephen headlined at San Diego's House of Blues. He first performed on a downtown SD stage almost two decades ago. In 1988, however, the 16-year-old was a percussionist/backup singer along with his two sisters in the Melody Makers, fronted by his big brother Ziggy.
On May 11 of that year -- the eve of the seventh anniversary of Bob's death from cancer at age 36 -- the Marley kids, backed by an eight-piece band, played a sold-out show at the long-since-shuttered California Theatre.
Reviewing the show as a Daily Aztec staffer at SDSU, I praised Stephen Marley's command and inclusion of hip-hop-related dancehall "toasting" when he took the lead vocals for a couple of songs: "...no doubt the first encounter many in the audience ever had with this relatively recent style that is all the rage in Jamaica...[but] goes mostly unreported in America...."
The most memorable event that night was the interference of a security guard with Stephen:
"Seconds after the first and only [skanking] stage-crasher was hustled off, a security type who had been facing the crowd hopped up on stage, took Stephen by the wrist, and attempted to remove him like the overexcited fan he thought the youth was [perhaps because, unlike his siblings, he had no dreadlocks and was dressed in street clothes]....
"The audience instantly knew what was happening, boos turning to cheers as the bouncer himself was shoved off to the side of the stage.... It almost seemed part of the stage act...but the disturbed look on Stephen's face when he returned to pound out a coldly furious bongo solo on the [resumed] cover of his father's 'Time Will Tell' seemed very real as did the righteously indignant tone of Ziggy's 'JAH, RAS-tafari!' cry upon dispatching the poor fool that had hassled his brother."