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Chilled-out set never got going

There's a funny smell in Vicar Street tonight. It ain't body odour or spilt beer, either. It's the 'ganja', man; that s***-stinkin', wreck-the-head drug favoured by rockers, hip hoppers, and every dosey-eyed stoner alive. Not to mention reggae aficionados.

And there are plenty of the latter crammed into Vicar Street for Ziggy Marley's debut appearance in Dublin. Well, the balcony is closed off, but then Bob's eldest young fella' was hardly going to fill the place, was he?

In fact, it's difficult to tell what the 'fans' came to hear. Some of them sport T-shirts bearing Ziggy's famous father's face. Others float between the bar and the stage.

But all of them seem to have perfected what I like to call the 'wing dance'. It doesn't involve much effort; just bend your arms, point your elbows outwards and slowly flap like a bird while bopping your head over and over to the beat. Rinse with a sup of beer and repeat.

Granted, the 42-year-old Jamaican possesses a soothing vocal -- an extremely familiar cry to Bob's, actually. That he also happens to be the spitting image of his dad might confuse those who've perhaps smoked too much. Especially when he decides to dust off a few of his old man's tunes (Is This Love, Jamming).

But Ziggy is a performer in his own right. Not that you'd really notice, mind, but the guitar-slinging, dread-wearing music maker has been in the business quite a while. Which makes it all the more surprising that Ziggy has failed to create a memorable, or even half-decent, songbook.


Reggae, at the worst of times, can be a very tedious genre -- repetitive, flat, and extremely one-dimensional.

There are moments tonight where Ziggy's material holds its own (opening number Tomorrow People, and the impressive Black Cat) but, over an hour and a half, the man continuously resorts to autopilot, serving up a decidedly average combination of background jams and predictable chord sequences. Sequences that go on. And on. And don't get me started on the screeching guitar solos.

Ziggy's half brother, Damian, cleverly redefined his sound with last year's sublime collaboration with US rapper Nas (Distant Relatives). He's also a riveting performer to watch.

Take a look at David Nesta ('Ziggy' is but a nickname, supposedly meaning a 'small joint') and you'll find there's little to get excited about in the way of showmanship.

The surrounding players appear way too chilled, very rarely expressing their excitement to what's happening around them.

The final minute of Look Who's Dancing proves that they are indeed capable of creating a stir, but it's too brief a moment in a set that ultimately fails to shine.

Ziggy digs the music -- that much is obvious. But he should take more risks; mix it up a little -- work the stage and remember to get involved with his audience.

And until he does, I'm afraid all we're left with is a stinker of a debut. In more ways than one. HHIII