Thursday, 16 August 2012

live review: toots and the maytals @ ABC, 10th august

Toots Hibbert has an infectious smile, and plenty of reasons to wear it tonight: his home nation celebrates 50 years of independence this month; a weighty haul of Olympian track medals has further boosted national pride; and to cap it off, Hibbert was awarded the Order of Jamaica earlier in the week, in recognition of a remarkable, near-five-decade career.

Not that these milestones are overtly referenced tonight (a nod to Bolt’s trademark victory pose from the backing singers aside). The evening has a sharper focus, on the here and now: indeed, from the opening Pressure Drop to a closing call-and-response-stacked 54-46 (That’s My Number), the ABC is animated and united in song and skanking.

Clad in leather and shades and skilfully backed by the whip-sharp Maytals, Toots is a magnetic stage presence, with energy levels that put performers half his age to shame. As he presides over highlights like the tempo-raising Monkey Man, he personifies ‘crowd-pleasing’ and transfers that aforementioned smile from his face to everyone else’s.

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