One Love Peace Festival, Wembley Arena, London
LONDON – Reggae fans in the United Kingdom waited 20 years for a festival of this magnitude and when it finally came, expectations were more or less satisfied. The One Love Peace Festival brought together some of the biggest names in reggae and dancehall in a marathon 10-hour show at Wembley Arena, west London, on 31 July.
Staged to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the passing of Bob Marley and to support the campaign against gun and knife crime, which is blighting young lives and devastating families in many British cities, the diverse streams of reggae over the decades were fully celebrated.
Thousands streamed into the cavernous venue and enjoyed classic tunes from back in the day early on from the likes of Trevor Hartley, Sandra Cross, Wayne Wade and Natty King.
Horace Andy has crossed into the mainstream but he went back to roots for another exemplary set before newcomer Gyptian came on and wooed the young women.
Levi Roots, the Reggae Reggae sauce tycoon, gave some food for thought with his conscious set before Aswad relived the golden ‘80s with tunes like Don’t Turn Around and Shine.
The Abassynians have been around since the ‘60s yet the three band leaders demonstrated they’re still fit and energetic enough to complement their vintage repertoire.
John Holt’s soothing tones lulled the crowd with his magical tones before Busta Rhymes leapt on with sidekick Spliff and re-energized the flagging hordes.
Despite being hip hop artists, the duo was well received, and those familiar with Busta’s rhymes recited with him in impressive fashion with animations to match the hyper pair.
Time for the A-listers
As the 11pm curfew rapidly approached, it was a case of squeezing in the two main draws.
Sean Paul’s microphone wasn’t up to scratch and he was unable to ‘ride the riddim’ as well as usual, and as a result got a low-key reception.
Shaggy came on just before official closing time and sadly had to rush his set. He continued performing even when the sound was being shut down but in his 26 minutes managed to bang out solid favourites like Oh Carolina (briefly), It Wasn’t Me and Angel.
The show started late and many early artists sang their full set, which led to the abridged performance by Shaggy, so the organisers should address this issue next time.
Everit Bailey, a lifelong reggae fan, said: “Overall it was a good show but had the minor acts not run on for so long early on, there would not have been a problem at the end.
“I’d never seen Busta, Shaggy and Sean Paul before, and on reflection Busta went down the best. He showed his professionalism by asking for the mic to be turned up. Sean Paul didn’t come over as well, which is why he was lacking.
“Shaggy was good but rushed, which is a pity because he is a great showman. I hope the next One Love Festival here is not another 20 years away. In Germany and Holland I go to their reggae festivals every year and they’re much bigger, so although England is the home of reggae in Europe, they need to do more shows to prove it.”