Taking its place alongside immersive museum-style exhibits from Pink Floyd to Vincent Van Gogh, the Bob Marley One Love Experience has arrived in Los Angeles at the Ovation (formerly Hollywood & Highland), the massive complex which houses the Dolby Theater, home of the Academy Awards, and the legendary Chinese Theater, noted for its cement footprints of the stars, many of whom are represented on Hollywood Boulevard.
The sprawling, seven-room installation, which premiered last year at London’s Saatchi Gallery and Toronto’s Lighthouse Artspace to mixed reviews, held a preview opening on Jan. 26 at its 15,000 square foot space within the Ovation complex, occupying the site of a former candy store, with ticket prices ranging from $40 to $75 for the 12-week engagement. As ganja smoke filled the air, Bob Marley’s grandson, Grammy nominee Skip (his mother Cedella was there as well), performed note-perfect renditions of “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff" for a crowd of VIPs and fans.
Opening night captured the inclusive celebratory spirit of Marley’s legacy, as a pandemic-weary crowd visibly enjoyed being able to commune in Ovation’s vast public space and sway to the dulcet tones of Skip and his band on a balmy winter evening.
The Bob Marley One Love Experience is curated and created by Jonathan Shank’s Terrapin Station Entertainment artist management and production company. Shank previously produced tours for Peppa Pig Live! and Disney Junior Dance Party when he worked at Red Light Management.
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The hour-long tour offers a narrative of Marley’s life, starting with the One Love Music Room, an overview dominated by a wall-length Mr. Brainwash portrait of Marley created from shards of his Island Records albums and covers, as well as the familiar red, green and gold Legend album cover, which serves as its centerpiece.
The One Love Forest, meant to represent Marley's Jamaican roots, features a giant burning spliff and faux cannabis leaves, several beanbags and a secret room where prerolls were being offered – and smoked – although this option was undoubtedly for the first-night crowd only. The gift shop sells handcrafted glass pipes and bongs on the way out.
"As ganja smoke filled the air, Bob Marley’s grandson Skip performed note-perfect renditions of 'Get Up, Stand Up' and 'I Shot the Sheriff.'"
The Soul Shakedown Studio recreates Marley’s recording home, providing Bluetooth headphones with various live recordings as well as the recreation of a tiny bedroom featuring a black-and-white television and a set of backline amps and speakers used on a tour.
The Beautiful Life marks Marley’s favorite extra-music pastimes – soccer, foosball and ping-pong – with one display case housing an old pair of his athletic shoes, its cleats still covered in dirt.
The Next Gen room concentrates on Marley’s descendants, including wife Rita, sons Ziggy, Stephen, Damian and Julian and grandson Skip. There's a One Love tree where fans can write notes and clip them to the branches like leaves.
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The memorabilia range from a crumpled sheet of paper bearing the hand-written lyrics to “Turn Your Lights Down Low” to a battered acoustic guitar to rare photographs, including one picturing Marley at the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 holding hands with rival politicians Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.
Located in the heart of Hollywood, the Bob Marley One Love Experience is designed to attract tourists. The creators are obviously fans (their hearts are in the right places), and these productions are clearly the future of the museum experience. Unfortunately, the real Bob Marley died 42 years ago at the age of 36, and this loving, if attenuated, tribute only reminds us of how much he’s been missed. Sitting alongside Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the exhibit is similarly an exercise in trying to recreate the past, but as an introduction to Marley's legacy for some, it will have to do.
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