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Ziggy Marley carries on the family tradition at Crossroads KC

The Kansas City Star

What's in a name? In the case of Ziggy Marley, his surname represents both a proud heritage and an enormously heavy burden.

Marley, the eldest son of reggae icon Bob Marley and his wife Rita, performed at Crossroads KC on Thursday.

For every person in the audience of more than 1,500 wearing a Ziggy Marley t-shirt, there were at least ten more sporting merchandise that brandished images of his dad.

Marley, 45, was 12 when his father died in 1981. He graciously honored his family’s legacy during Thursday's 90-minute concert.

Marley seems to recognize that most of the people who buy tickets to hear him are just as interested in paying tribute to the late reggae star as they are in listening to renditions of his original compositions. Unlike his half-brother Damian Marley, the most musically imposing of Bob’s many children, Ziggy Marley’s music sounds like an extension of his father’s work.

The first three songs on the set list established the tone. The opening selection “True To Myself” sent an somewhat unconvincing message to fans that he's artistically independent.

“Love Is My Religion” exposed Marley’s limitations as a lyricist. Lines like “I don't want to fight/Hey, let's go fly a kite” counteracted the song's wonderfully loping rhythm. “Wild and Free,” an ode to marijuana, was greeted with lusty cheers and a marked increase in the density of the cloud of smoke that hovered over the audience.

Partly because Marley's voice sounds uncannily like that of his father, renditions of four of Bob Marley's songs -- “So Much Trouble In the World,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “One Love” and “Iron Lion Zion” -- were the concert's highlights. The bubbly “One Love” received the loudest reception, but the best of the four was a slithering and ominous reading of “So Much Trouble In the World.”

A handful of worthy original material also stood out.

Marley and three members of his nine-piece band showcased their dance moves during a lighthearted version of the 1988 hit “Conscious Party.” “Look Who's Dancin’ ” was improved by a profoundly deep funk groove. “Lighthouse” and “I Get Up,” selections from Marley’s new album “Fly Rasta,” demonstrated that Marley is honing his skill as a songwriter.

A pair of children were brought onto the stage to play percussion on the evening’s final selection, an energetic take on “Fly Rasta.”

Whether or not the two kids bear the family name, their presence served as an indication of the inevitable prospect of younger generations of Marleys perpetuating the family business.