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Cultural Trust considers plaque commemorating Marley's final show

"The band and entourage were on pins and needles all night, thinking he would have a seizure."

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After 35 years, Bob Marley's final concert may finally live forever in Downtown Pittsburgh.

On Sept. 23, 1980, the reggae superstar spoke his final words onstage, to an exultant, sold-out crowd at Pittsburgh's Stanley Theater.

"If you keep it up like this we'll have to come here every year," he said. "Every week, every month!"

But Marley and the rest of his band, The Wailers, knew that was impossible. Two days prior, Marley collapsed during a run in Central Park. Cancer had metastasized throughout his body. Within eight months he would perish at age 36; the Pittsburgh show would be his last.

"It was a really tense evening," recalls Rich Engler, who promoted the show with DiCesare Engler Productions. "The band and entourage were on pins and needles all night, thinking [Marley] would have a seizure or would go into some sort of fainting spell onstage. They were very nervous and Rita [Marley's wife and member of the Wailers] herself didn't want him to even go on. And here it turned out to be spectacular."

Despite the performance's renown — it was extensively bootlegged before getting an official release in 2011 — no commemorative plaque or marker hangs at the Stanley (which was renamed the Benedum Center in 1987).

But that might soon change.

Engler, who produced a 30th anniversary show at the Benedum in 2010, featuring Rita Marley and several of Bob Marley's children, is in talks for a similar event next year: "Another celebration of his life," Engler calls it. And, he believes, an ideal occasion to install a plaque to commemorate Marley's final concert.

Gene Ciavarra, vice president of operations at the Benedum, says that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which owns the Benedum, supports the idea.

"Whenever that show happens, we want to do a plaque," says Ciavarra.

Engler, however, stresses that nothing has been finalized yet.

"Whenever you put a show together like that, there's a lot of planning, a lot of different moving pieces to it. And, it's gonna take some time; I've been working on it for a year already.

"I'm praying that we're able to do it in 2015."

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