UB40 Header Pete Dillon

UB40 at Brothers Leagues Club

I grew up listening to UB40. Not on purpose mind you (they started playing the year before I was born) but like Bob Marley I absorbed their music by osmosis. It’s strange going to a show where you can only name two songs and then it turns out that you know pretty much the whole set. I can’t find my keys or phone but I somehow know all the lyrics to “Can’t help falling in love”. It’s like that scene in the first Matrix movie. “I know Kung-fu”.

The line for UB40 at Brothers leagues club started at the top of the stairs and went out the front door. 3 people wide. Brothers can hold 1200 people standing according to their website and while it wasn’t quite capacity it was pretty damn close. And what a diverse crowd it was! All ages, all races. Half the crowd was dancing on the 1 and 3 and the other half was on the 2 and 4 and everyone was singing along.

There are two UB40’s now in the world. One with the original singer and one with his brother Duncan Campbell. This was the second one. Duncan has hip swinging down to a fine art. In fact the whole band was swinging left to right like some sort of drunken sailor on shore leave for the entire show. Guitarist Robin Campbell was UB40 petedillon-6358the most vocal of the lot keeping the crowd involved between songs with jokes and stories. “I’ve never done hard drugs, but some of you look like you have”. Classic stuff from a band that looked comfortable and in charge but never bored. The 3 piece horn section was fantastic and percussionist Norman Hassan was having a great time. The highlight of the sonic gumbo served up on the night (at least for me) was the keyboards. Keys are the one place a traditional reggae band can really go places and these were quirky and strange but somehow fit perfectly. The band was tighter than Margaret Thatcher (10 points for witty political in joke) and flawless in their execution.

Of course the real highlight of the night was the double whammy of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”  followed by “Red Red Wine”.  Sing-a-longs don’t get much better than these two songs and the crowd was extremely appreciative. Personally I would have saved one of them for the encore but I guess this is why I am writing about successful bands instead of playing in one. My only real issue was that the whole thing was a bit short. I would have thought a band that had been around for almost 40 years could play a bit longer but the crowd seemed happy and satiated. I honestly never expected to see UB40 live but I am glad that I have!.

Tim Wright

Photos by Pete Dillon

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