On their 50th Anniversary tour
Toots & The Maytals - Live At O2 Academy Brixton

Ska and roots reggae veterans Toots and the Maytals played a lively gig at o2 Academy Brixton on Friday as they drew closer towards the end of their 50th Anniversary tour. Widely regarded as at the forefront of Jamaican music, Toots and the Maytals cemented their reputation with an energetic show that saw them plough through their greatest hits.

Toots Hibbert’s charisma shone though his performance and he got the crowd going with audience participation from the start. Although their latest record was released only last year they predominantly played tracks from their 60s and 70s heyday which proved to be the right choice. Opener ‘Pressure Drop’ was typically chilled out and saw shoulders around the room relax as their weekend began, whilst upbeat ‘Funky Kingston’ was responded to with unanimous cheers. ‘Monkey Man’ proved to be a great success even before Rolling Stone Ron Wood clambered onto the stage and played acoustic guitar, demonstrating their music does not simply sit comfortably in the reggae box. Their cover of John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was another crowd-pleaser in which every audience member over 50 sang along for the entirety.

Toots also showcased his smooth and infectious dancing skills throughout the night and was certainly not the only one who could not keep his feet still. Whilst undoubtedly forerunners of reggae the band also did well to reveal their R&B and Soul influences which can perhaps be heard most strongly in Toots’ rich vocals. Almost every track closed with a rendition of the chorus at twice the speed and a drum roll, which despite evoking applause grew a little tiresome by the end of the night. There was a slight dip in the middle of the set when they played their slower and less well-known tracks, although the lively atmosphere picked up again by the finish when every crowd member was singing and dancing along in revelry. And when they choose show-stopper ’54-46 That’s My Number’ as their encore track who would be bothered anyway?

Words by Ellie Bothwell
Photo by Olivia Ford

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