REVIEW: Toots & the Maytals (plus We The Undersigned) at O2 Academy, 18/08/2012

JAMAICAN legends Toots & the Maytals visited the O2 Academy last Saturday night (18 Aug), Shaun McCoy was there to witness a top class performance from them and one of Liverpool’s rising bands We The Undersigned.

It was another hot sticky night in Liverpool as Caribbean temperatures continued to rise inside the O2. I’ve seen Toots and his band here before in 2007 back when it was the Carling Academy, that was a fabulous performance and tonight’s was just as exceptional.

WTU (We the Undersigned) were an excellent support band to have on the bill. They have quite a following of their own in Liverpool so it was no wonder that the audience went mad for the group’s Stankh music. An energetic combination of ska, reggae, funk-rock music which throws up a highly charged atmosphere for both band and audience. First on the Stankh list was the tribal war cry of Cosmic Warrior, a big sounding funk/reggae/jazz number which got the crowd going straight away. WTU are an exciting band creating a big feel good vibe in every performance they do. They don’t just create electrifying music they also write well-constructed songs, with some featuring social and political comments like in Stop the Rot and False Flag. They are also a big outfit featuring soulful backing singers, a great horn section and a very funky bass sound. They finish with Archetype (What’s Your) featuring a groovy flute, booming horns and vibrant rhythms.

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Before Toots takes to the stage one of his backing singers Chantelle, sings a couple of songs which include Rod Stewart’s First Cut is the Deepest, done with a reggae groove. Toots walked onto rapturous applause and then go into Never Go Down, one of many tracks to come from a distinguished back catalogue. Some of the songs were quite gospel sounding such as the powerful Hallelujah, were Toots also demonstrates his nifty guitar playing.

Toot’s has a very accomplished backing band that provides him with the ammunition to show off his phenomenal voice which is awesomely demonstrated in the classic Pressure Drop. He’s got an array of Jamaican classics in his arsenal that rank alongside other legendary artists like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster. There are so many highlights in this highly enjoyable set that has the audience dancing and swaying throughout.

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Both Toots and the band have that knack of slowing things down when they have to. Bam Bam is one such laidback track that is pleasantly received due to the heat in the venue. Then it’s back into an up tempo mode as they do one of my favourite tracks Funky Kingston. Toots is like a Jamaican James Brown in this song delivering a gritty soulful vocal on a funky-reggae back beat.The great man and his splendid band finish with two songs that have had such an influence on long list of artists featuring Madness, the Specials and the Clash. The encore features the crucial Monkey Man, and the momentous 54-46 That’s My Number before turning into a rousing gospel-reggae jam – a rasping end to a superlative performance.

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