tootsOn a brief tour of the UK before heading for America (North and South), Toots Hibbert, born in 1945, is still going strong and the audience (young and old, black and white) of course loved this set at the Newcastle Academy on September 9th 2016: a performance still vital after all these years. The nine-strong ensemble (ten if you count the very visible roadie) sounded as though they were enjoying it rather than going through the motions which must be a tempting option for bands of this vintage. Kicking off with Pressure Drop, Toots and the band took us through a variety of tracks including the hits that everyone wanted to hear: Louie Louie, Never Go Down, Sweet and Dandy, Funky Kingston (accelerating very briskly to its conclusion), Light Your Light, ending with a fine Monkey Man. Surprisingly a high-spot was the bass-driven rendition of Country Roads, demonstrating that John Denver songs can rock after all. The encore brought a reprise of Monkey Man before going into 54-46 Was My Number, finishing on a high with some crashing rock chords. The only downside to the evening was the venue: shifted (for ‘regeneration’ reasons?) from the Boiler Shop to the Academy, involving an unnecessary queue for tickets (again) and sadly illustrating that the latter venue’s poor sound system and dire-quality video screens can take the edge off a great performance. But that’s not the fault of Toots and the Maytals who gave it all they had.

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