The Best Gig I Ever Saw was on a hot summer’s evening on June 22nd, 1978, at Bingley Hall, Staffordshire in the midlands of England. I had a ticket to see Jamaican reggae band Bob Marley & the Wailers. At that time, one of their shows was considered to be the Holy Grail of live performance for young black British people. They played authentic Jamaican roots reggae that had remarkably “crossed over,” meaning that now even conscious white brethren loved it too.
The venue, a large hangar-like space, was heaving. The sweet scent of sensimilla floated on the humid air. Bob Marley & The Wailers entered the stage to deafening applause and the band launched into “Concrete Jungle.” The I Threes, resplendent in red, gold and green robes, rocked in time with their high, perfectly pitched vocals in total sync, Bob Marley wore a blue denim jacket and jeans, his arms held above his head as if in supplication to a higher force. It was like a messianic experience. Even though I am an atheist, my younger self yearned to be saved by the wisdom so expertly dispensed by this otherworldly, slightly built man, who was dancing on stage, owning the space, seemingly in a world of his own, a better world, where iniquity workers were slain with the genius of his songwriting skills. He was the shaman, the link between this world and the next; a musical prophet and the audience became his newly anointed disciples.
Other members of the soon to be formed 2-tone band, The Selecter, were present that evening. We didn’t know each other then, but the love created that night by Bob Marley and his band forged a bond between us, as if we became links in a righteous eternal chain, that even after 40 years remains unbroken.