Just because the Hollywood Bowl is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic doesn’t mean it’s all symphonies and concertos from April through September. In addition to hosting popular touring acts like Phish, Portugal. The Man, Incubus, and John Legend, L.A.’s famed half-shell amphitheater also hosts musically themed evenings, including its annual Reggae Night.

For this year’s edition—the 21st Reggae Night to date—the Hollywood Bowl welcomed three legendary acts onto its stage: Beres Hammond, Steel Pulse, and Third World. Each band played a tight set of distinctive songs that transported the crowd to Ethiopia, Jamaica, and all points of the African diaspora in between.

Third World tipped off the KRCW-curated bill with its proprietary, genre-bending blend of funk, dancehall, R&B, pop, and, of course, reggae. Led by the original duo of guitarist/cellist Stephen “Cat” Coore and bassist Richard Daley, with AJ Brown on vocals, the Kingston-based quintet came out firing with hits to fill its 45-minute set.

The band began with “Reggae Ambassador” from 1989’s Serious Business before diving into its iconic cover of The O’Jays’ “Now That We Found Love”. In between a pair of songs penned, at least partly, by Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley (“Loving You Is Easy” and “You’re Not The Only One”), Third World busted out its iconic track, “1865 (96 Degrees In The Shade)”.

The members of Third World then took turns showing off their individual talents, including “Cat” clawing out a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, Richard leading a tease of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” that morphed into Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, and AJ belting a beautiful rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye”. The group closed out its set with “Try Jah Love”, which was written for Third World by Stevie Wonder.

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Next up, Steel Pulse brought its distinctive brand of British-bred, highly political, punk-influenced reggae to the stage. From “Blues Dance Raid” and “Rally Round” to “Drug Squad”, “Leggo Beast”, and the band’s cover of Roy Hamilton’s “Don’t Let Go,” David Hinds—one of two remaining members from the band’s original lineup, along with keyboardist Selwyn Brown—had the crowd rocking to the group’s defiant roots reggae.

Nearly 50 years after its formation, Steel Pulse remains vibrant and active in creating new music and made sure to remind the Reggae Night audience of as much. Along with those aforementioned classics, the boys from Handsworth sprinkled in “Rize” and “Stop You Coming and Come” from their latest album, 2019’s Mass Manipulation.

Even with those fresh cuts, Steel Pulse gave the people what they wanted, and then some. The group was sure to pull from its iconic 1984 album, Earth Crisis, including “Bodyguard” and, of course, “Steppin’ Out”, which got everyone in the house chanting “Open sesame, here comes Rasta man.”

That all set the scene perfectly for Beres Hammond as the closing act. The 67-year-old legend—who was awarded the Order of Jamaica (the equivalent of knighthood in Britain) by his home country in 2013—tore through his extensive catalog in quick succession, with ample joy and energy. The Anotto Bay native made sure to give voice to the likes of “Rise and Shine”, “I Feel Good”, “Putting Up Resistance”, and “What One Dance Can Do” during his 70-minute set, with barely a break in between each track.

One of the few times Beres did stop singing, he took the opportunity to acknowledge the audience and bask in the glow of their adoration.

“You make me feel like a child again,” he said. “Thank you for the love.”

Beres went on to show his gratitude with a spectacular closing run of “No Disturb Sign”, “Love From a Distance”, and “Full Attention”, with the jubilation of “Rock Away” to close out the evening and send attendees home on a high note.

With the three-headed excellence that the L.A. Philharmonic brought to bear on this year’s Reggae Night, fans of those island rhythms can only hope that the 2024 edition will stack up. Then again, considering the event’s stellar track record, upping the ante next summer shouldn’t be much of an issue for the Hollywood Bowl.

Check out a gallery of images from Reggae Night at Hollywood Bowl courtesy of photographer Josh Martin below.