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Reggae Revival Show: Toots and The Maytals @ The Blockley.

March 26, 2012

Top image by Andrew L. Mendelson. Text and other images by G.W. Miller III.

Toots Hibbert walked onto the stage at The Blockley Saturday night and casually strolled through one of the greatest reggae/ ska tunes of all time, “Pressure Drop.” He smiled, holding the mic about a foot from his face, and barely moved, allowing that powerful and unmistakable voice do all the work. It gave the impression that the rest of the performance might be a tame show, a legend running out the clock.

Within a few songs, however, Toots was fired up by the jam-packed crowd that bounced constantly throughout the rambunctious, two-hour long set. He was part James Brown, shuffling his feet frantically, and part evangelist, beckoning to the audience to respond loudly with each of his prompts. He crooned and jammed on his guitar and he toyed with the audience like the master musician he is.

It was an amazing performance, especially considering that Toots and the Maytals had their first hit, “Bam Bam,” in 1966. Toots is 66-years old and his band has legendary reggae musicians like Rad Dougie Bryan on guitar and Paul Douglas on the drums. Together, they have recorded some of reggae’s greatest songs – Toots is even credited for taking the term reggae, which was the name of a dance, and spinning it into a musical genre. It evolved from one of his hits, “Do the Reggay.”

Toots and the band performed that classic, along with “Sweet and Dandy,” “Louie Louie,” “Monkey Man” and “Reggae Got Soul.”

He teased the crowd by ending the set without playing his signature tune, “54-46 That’s My Number.” But he returned to the stage for a four song encore that ended with the classic – and it lasted about 20 minutes for the one song. He challenged the crowd to give it to him ten times, and they did. So he bellowed, “Give it to me 13 times.”

And when the crowd accurately responded, he admitted, “That’s the first time anyone ever did 13 times. I love you.”

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