Live at the Starlight Amphitheater
July 22, 1978
According to David Moskowitz’s book Bob Marley: A Biography, the 1978 Kaya Tour had three parts: two North American legs and one European leg that separated them. Most houses were sold out and many shows were recorded for posterity by Chris Blackwell using the Island Mobile Studio. The tour began in Ann Arbor, Michigan with shows throughout the mid-west. This was followed by a swing out to the east coast and then north to Canada. The band then returned to the U.S. for a series of dates before departing for Europe. The second North American leg began in Vancouver, BC and took the band through Washington, Oregon, and on to California, where they played six shows, including a show on July 22 at the Starlight Amphitheater.
The opening act for this performance was Little Anthony & the Imperials (although Little Anthony was not with the band at the time). Noted journalist and Marley historian Roger Steffens recalls the show:
We drove down to L.A. the following weekend to catch Bob at the Starlight Amphitheater in Burbank. It was a nightmare getting inside, because they had only one entrance, and they were searching everyone. We missed the Imperials’ opening act, but found our seats just as Bob was introduced. The show was similar to that in Cruz – at least until the encores. Later we learned that backstage that night stars like Mick Jagger and Diana Ross were milling about, trying to wangle an invitation to come on stage with Bob, but he was having none of that. Imagine our surprise then, as Bob began to sing his final encore of “Get Up Stand Up” when loping across the stage with massive strides, Peter Tosh appeared, just at the part of the song where he came in on the record. As he reached for the microphone, Bob suddenly caught sight of him, and he broke out into the most massive grin I’ve ever seen, Grand Canyon-wide with delighted surprise. Peter never missed a beat, and the two hugged each other and acted as if they’d never been separated. It was the only time they would ever appear together outside of Jamaica after the breakup of the group, a piece of history that, sadly, most people in the audience didn’t realize was happening. Afterwards, I encountered Peter walking through the crowd. The next day he was opening for the Rolling Stones in the Anaheim Stadium, and I eagerly assured him that we, like many many others, would be there basically just to see him, and that he had a whole heap of fans in L.A.
A few years later, just after Bob died, I interviewed Peter for “L.A. Reggae” a cable tv show Chilli Charles and I had just started, and asked him whether Bob had known he was going to come out on stage that evening. “No,” he said, indicating that it was the Spirit that had moved him spontaneously and “whatsoever the Spirit tell me to do, I do.” What else did he remember of that night? “Well,” he drawled, thick smoke pouring from his nostrils, “I remember we go backstage and Bob clapped my hand and say, ‘Bwoi, the Pope feel that one!'” Then he laughed and, staring straight into the camera in his most terrifying tone, announced, “And three days later, the Pope died!”.
Steffens also related the experience for me recently:
“It was amazing because when Peter marched across the stage, hardly anyone recognized him, and I remember standing up and yelling. “It’s Peter Tosh! Peter Tosh!!” to a largely ignoring crowd. There are only a very few moments in one’s life in which you are consciously aware of history happening. Seeing the reunion of Peter and Bob after so much acrimony, and witnessing the obvious love that remained between them was one for me.”
On his DVD Live at the Hollywood Bowl, artist Ben Harper relates a childhood experience in which, during the 1978 Bob Marley concert at the Starlight Amphitheater, Peter Tosh showed up unannounced as Get Up, Stand Up was being performed, took the microphone from Marley and started singing the last verse of the song to thunderous applause.
In addition to the concert descriptions provided by Roger Steffens and Ben Harper, I also obtained a review of the show from an anonymous concert-goer:
“In 1978, while visiting Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to see and hear Bob Marley live at a very small venue called the Starlight Bowl in Burbank. The show was incredible, and we were able to move to within 20 feet of the stage. To this day I can still feel the music and the great vibes that Bob released into the air that night. For an encore, Peter Tosh joined on stage and that was a quite special reunion of sorts. Of all the live shows I’ve seen, I think that must be one of the best and certainly a very memorable experience, not to mention the ticket was only $10.”
I have included a review of the show written by Richard Cromelin and published in the Los Angeles Times on July 24, 1978. Click here to read on Issuu.