Review and photos – Toots and the Maytals at the Commodore, Vancouver, July 5 2011
– review by Elecia Chrunik/photos by Jordana Meilleur
It’s not like you go to Toots and the Maytals to see new material. And you have to understand that these are not the glory days of the band. It’s more of a nostalgia kind of show where you’re transported back to those sunny days or long road trips whence “Pressure Drop” or “Sweet and Dandy” is blasting and you can’t help but shake your thang and feel very happy to be alive.
It was exciting to be there, I had never seen Toots before, and finding a single scalper’s ticket before the sold-out concert for my friend was tough. But the big surprise came later when I realized… that the show was a bit of a drag.
The show opened with an introduction not for frontman Frederick “Toots” Hibbert but for his daughter Leba. It was a strange way to start – my friend and I agreed that there was no way she would be performing if she didn’t have a famous father. It was a strange way to open and after she sang two covers, including John Waite’s “Missing You”, I was ready to see whom we came to see.
After the MC’s glowing introduction for “the man who gave us the word ‘reggae’” (Toots is credited with unleashing the word reggae into the mainstream in the 1968 song “Do the Reggay”) Hibbert, dressed in bright white head-to-toe except for his black shades, bandana and elbow bands, appeared.
Hibbert, at 65 years old, is a force on stage and has an enviable amount of energy. The set started with the classic “Pressure Drop”, which I’m sure everyone was looking forward to hearing. But then it went on…and on… and on…
That seemed to be the formula for the show: start with a classic song like “Reggae Got Soul” or “Funky Kingston”, but then draaaaag it out for an unwarrantable amount of time, making it tough to really get into it or feel like a part of the music.
Except for the people in the front-and-centre, the audience seemed restless – lots of conversations were going on as people treated the show as mere background.
However, as I was writing notes about how bored I was, a guy came over and asked me what I was writing about (silly question). He said, “make sure you write that there’s a guy having a heart explosion over there.” The first thing that crossed my mind was that someone was having a heart attack. But he went on to say that he and his friends were exploding with love and happiness and they were having the best time ever. So, there were definitely people who were really enjoying themselves.
In interviews, Hibbert reveals himself to be a man of faith who lives to embody and broadcast love, which is why his music is so touching and accessible. It’s joyful and that’s what the world needs so whether the concert was fantastic or not isn’t really the point: Toots and the Maytals make (made) music that we can be thankful to have and it will always be there for a good dance party or a sunny day at Wreck Beach. They are awesome and always will be.