FEW bands can match the longevity of Toots and the Maytals. Even if they did part ways temporarily in the 1980s, they were right there at the very start of reggae in the early Sixties (even coining the word in the song ‘Do the Reggay’, as they are prone to reminding the world).
Favourites in their native Jamaica, the band never achieved the international breakout success of Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, although they have enjoyed a late-career revival in the UK after being championed and covered by punk bands like The Clash.
Frontman Toots Hibbert may be of pension-drawing age now, but his famously soulful voice is as distinctive as ever on tonight’s set opener Pressure Drop. In true bandmaster style he arrives on stage a few minutes after his seasoned musicians have hit their groove, stoking anticipation among the tightly packed Liquid Room.
When you have five decades of recorded material behind you it’s possible to tour a set of wall-to-wall hits, and there is hardly a chance to clap before Hibbert launches himself into Time Tough, demanding the crowd to echo his cries of “higher and higher” as the Maytals crank it up to double-tempo.
The reggae godfather may not be quite as sprightly as he once was, but when he grabs an acoustic guitar, dons a pair of shades (which can be forgiven indoors if you’re Toots Hibbert) and delivers hits like Funky Kingston and Monkey Man, it’s clear that this is a man who still loves his songs and loves performing them even more.
It’s a privilege to behold, and the Maytals (mostly comprised of original members, unlike many bands of the same vintage) receive their fair share of the applause when Hibbert introduces them individually.
It practically goes without saying that they sign off with 54-46 That’s My Number, and whether or not we’ll see another tour from these genuine legends, the effortless rhythm and sheer joy their music inspires leaves the fans to shuffle out, smiling from ear to ear.