I drove to the venue, as it’s a little awkward for public transport, finding a place to park on the street when I discovered the car park I had used last time was no longer for public use.
Support act Kioko were already underway by the time I got in. My first impression was of a poppy, reggae, UB40-ish band. I was therefore far from surprised to find out that the eight-piece outfit is from Birmingham.
Lead singer Matt Doyle (who looked a bit like Ricky Hatton with a ‘tache) seemed to be putting on something of a cod Jamaican accent (though, no worse than most English singers’ American ones in the 50’s and 60’s to be fair) during Good Times, which like the previous number featured what I considered to be rather an unnecessary guitar solo.
I’d say they would be an ideal festival band, with the sun shining on them. Lead guitarist Jon Brown reminded me of a cross between a weasly-faced American film actor whose name escapes me and David Sylvian, if that’s not too rude. Meanwhile, bassist Ben Torrens called to mind a taller Ralf Little.
Deadly Roots got the crowd singing along, while final number Kioko Skank was some top foot-stomping ska.
I grabbed a Guinness while waiting for the main event, with the DJ spinning a series of reggae classics.
Toots And The Maytals are a classic reggae band from the 1960’s onwards, with their 1968 single Do The Reggay being the first popular song to use the name of the new genre. They have gone on to have 31 number singles in their native Jamaica, a (ha!) record.
The eight-piece band (including the reggae-traditional trio of female backing singers) came out to perform an instrumental track before main man Toots Hibbert came on to a rapturous reception.
Amazingly, they started with the seminal Pressure Drop, certainly amongst my two or three favourites of theirs, that I best know through The Clash’s cover version.
Could they top that? Maybe not, but next up came a trio of excellent songs in Time Tough, Sweet And Dandy and Louie Louie, the last of which they covered back in 1972 but unsurprisingly I consider to really be a song by The Kingsmen.
Toots strapped on a guitar at various points of the set, while his voice was incredibly powerful for man aged 74, with his microphone often an unnecessary bauble dangled around his neck as opposed to an essential piece of stage equipment.
The crowd were lapping up the set, with much dancing, arm waving and singing along. After a minor lull, the set peaked again towards the end when Funky Kingston was followed by Reggae Got Soul, Bam Bam and then Take Me Home, Country Roads, which featured a great keyboard solo.
The main set closed with the uplifting frug-a-thon that is Monkey Man, their 1969 single made more famous in a cover version by The Specials.
The encore peaked with 1968’s 54-46 (That’s My Number), and was followed by an extended, funky track during which Toots introduced the band.
So ended a great night of top quality reggae, with the crowd thoroughly enjoying the show, as did I, with the audience including quite a few kids who were clearly having a great time too.
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Here is some of the music from the night on Spotify: