“From Kingston, Jamaica – we call him Toots. The man who gave us the word reggae with a song called “Do The Reggay” way back, and if you hang out with someone really ugly you can say “You huggin’ up the big Monkey Man” – Carl Harvey introducing Ska Father, Toots.
When you think of the 70s/80s ska scene, you (should) think of Toots & the Maytals. Following a UK tour with fellow veterans The Specials, the legends of Ska and Reggae took to the stage at the De La Warr Pavilion to deliver a set rife with across-the-board hits. Toots was supported by Cardiff-based & self-proclaimed “clumsy” roots reggae artist Captain Accident and his touring band The Disasters, who warmed up the crowd with their rock-enthused ska numbers.
With a rousing introduction from lead guitarist Carl Harvey, Toots joined Paul Douglas (drums), Jackie Jackson (bass), Dougie Bryan (rhythm guitar) and Charles Farquharson (keyboard) with his backing singers, Gwen Jackson, Marie “Twiggi” Gitten and daughter Leba Thomas.
Toots Hibbert can somehow perfectly encapsulate a generation whilst inspiring another. Toots & the Maytals drew a crowd of long-time fans as well as the fresh-faced youth who had grown up to the unparalleled beats of Louie Louie and Funky Kingston. Playing such hits, as well as “Reggae Got Soul“, “Bam Bam” and their infamous cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” proved the audience knew the words to every song. Toots further roused the crowd by having them repeat hooks back to him, and he took a moment mid-gig to express his gratitude for the turnout, stating “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, and you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us […] you’re beautiful people.”
Following an outburst of energy from the crowd during the “Time Tough” “higher and higher” refrain, Toots slowed things down with the smooth & rhythmic “Love Is Gonna Let Me Down” before building the atmosphere for the last time with the long-awaited “54-46 That’s My Number”. Toots & the Maytals proved to still be on top of their game, and their universally loved #1 hit brought the night to its peak.
Carolann Bossom, for The Hastings Observer.