At Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebration on April 18, 1980, in the Rufaro Stadium, Bob Marley performed a concert which has come to be known as “The Riot Show”. Many mistake the April 18 performance to be the April 19 performance (which was recorded) when in fact, they were two separate shows. An internet search will show that there are many mislabeled bootlegs circulating claiming to be from the Independence Day celebrations but are actually from the second concert.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

Accounts of the April 18 concert state that after the Zimbabwean flag had been raised, it was announced that Bob Marley & The Wailers would perform in front of a crowd made up of mostly dignitaries and the media, including Zimbabwe’s first Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Britain’s Prince Charles and India’s Indira Gandhi. The band supposedly started off by performing the song “Positive Vibration” and went on to play “Roots, Rock, Reggae.” The Zimbabwean crowd outside of the stadium heard Marley singing and got angry. The enraged fans began pressing against the stadium’s gates and during the performance of “I Shot The Sheriff“, the Zimbabwean police answered the violence of the fans by firing tear teargas into the crowds. Marley and the band were quickly escorted to safety.

After a few minutes, Marley came back onstage and in true Bob Marley fashion shouted “Freedom!” almost immediately after a crisp English voice from the other end of the stadium announced: “Bob Marley, you have exactly two minutes left.” The band proceeded to play “War” which they would fade into into “No More Trouble.” Now running fifteen minutes over their scheduled “two minutes,” Marley performed to Zimbabwe, with the entire audience now joining in the chorus. It was then that the concert was finally cancelled and that was the end of the notorious “Riot Show.”

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