Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 9, 2004
Bob MarleyThe Legend Live (Trojan/Sanctuary)
By November 1979, when this concert was filmed, reggae's Haile Selassie 34-year-old Bob Marley was battling cancer. In the hourlong, newsreel-style bonus documentary included on The Legend Live, Marley looks terrible gaunt, sallow. The Lion of Judah is dying. In front of a hillside of approximately 10,000 fans at the Santa Barbara, Calif., County Bowl, his reedy, Marvin Gaye-meets-Otis Redding cry is ravaged, particularly on "Is This Love." Wife Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt cover for him harmonically, yet at one point, he waves them off. "Crazy Baldhead" and "Ride Natty Ride" fair no better. Worse is 30 minutes of restored footage to this 1981 VHS/ laser disc. Out of focus lenses and too-few cameras seriously mar a majority of the additional numbers, though "Concrete Jungle" and "Them Belly Full" are good saves. The quality of the singer's performance obviously helped dictate the show's original runtime. Of those core 60 minutes, more than a few were magical, however. Besides the fact that there's virtually no live Marley video available outside snippets included on documentaries, rarer still is material from late in the superstar's career. One of Marley's best compositions, Survival's "Zimbabwe," receives fine treatment, while Kaya's "Running Away" is also a treat. Overall, this date, one of 47 in 49 days, is by no means transcendent, hitting its stride well after its sunset start time, but its singularity in capturing The Legend Live nevertheless relegates this DVD to absolute must-see status for fervent followers of reggae's most holy prophet.