Toots and the Maytals

O2 Academy, Bristol on Sun 11th Sep 2011

I've waited a long time to see old Toots Hibbert, as a reggae nut for over 30 years I've been gutted to have missed him on the festival circuit year after year. So I had great expectations of seeing him in a club/venue, though nervous that I might be disappointed.

His daughter Leba opened the show to a packed house doing a couple of covers, it was nice but I wanted the man himself so paid little attention to her cover of John Waite's 'Missing You', she has a good strong voice though, with that same Gospel underpinning of her father's.

Toots took to the stage putting on his sunglasses as he did so, wearing his signature cut off jacket and bandana. First impressions and I thought 'Oh No, he looks tired', his voice seemed tired and strained, maybe 'Bestival' had had the best of him the night before.

He shuffled through a couple of songs with a very static band behind him, my partner commenting that the bass player actually looked dead. The large crowd were so enthusiastic though showering him with adulation and immediately dancing with great enthusiasm. As the crowd cheered louder, and the dancing grew wilder old Toots started to warm up.

With the first line of 'Take Me Home' it was apparent that the audience was here for a good old sing song and I think Toots himself was surprised by the sheer gusto of the singing. He visibly livened up and seemed to shake off his earlier lack lustre, as all the hits started to come out neatly segueing one from the other. 'Pressure Drop' nearly raised the roof with it's anthemic chorus, '54-56 Was My Number' saw the crowd punching the air in time to the "Give it to Me" chorus, and with 'Monkey Man' the whole crowd was moving and singing their lungs out. By this time Toots was a different man from the one who shambled on stage, he danced moves that his 65 plus years shouldn't have allowed, he was energetic, happy and visibly enjoying himself.

After all the energy of the 'hits' came an interlude of soulful gospel inspired jamming, making me realise it had been well worth the wait to see him at his own show. I also became aware that his reggae legacy is only a part of what is Frederick "Toots" Hibbert's talent. He is a giant as a performer, and a truly soulful man.

What a night of great music and what an atmosphere, I really think every member of the crowd thought their twenty five quid well spent. Old Toots Hibbert shone for the crowd and didn't want to seem to leave the stage after an encore and rapturous applause. Thank goodness he managed to turn what began as 'another day at the office' performance into a truly memorable one.

article by: Sharon Worley

published: 13/09/2011 17:29

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