UB40 at The Auditorium in Grimsby on Monday, October 12th, always promised to be a good night and the Birmingham reggae stars didn’t disappoint, with a show that had plenty of hits but also gave an outing to songs from their current album, the country tinged Getting Over The Storm.
On the first night of the last U.K. leg of a tour that has lasted more than two years, the band showed no sign of flagging. Everybody was on top form, with vocalist Duncan Campbell and his brother Robin (QRO interview) on guitar at stage front, and Brian Travers on saxophone making his presence felt either from the risers at the back or on one of his many excursions to the stage front. In many respects Travers fulfills the role of third frontman, partly because of the amount of time he spends at the stage front (where he is a master at the art of getting the best out of the audience), but also because wherever he may be on the stage he has the knack of making himself the centre of attention.
It was the third time I’ve seen the band this year and they’ve been excellent every time, but tonight it was the up tempo songs that really stood out from the rest, particularly a fantastic “Ivory Madonna”, surely one of the best pop melodies ever, with Duncan really leaning into the vocal while demonstrating an impressively snake hipped wiggle boogie. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”, performed in tribute to Robert Palmer, was another highlight full of attack and straying into rock and even into rap styling in places.
UB40 always seem like a very democratic unit and each member of the band, apart from the always immaculate Jimmy Brown on drums, got a turn at the front of the stage with bassist Earl Falconer taking the lead on a pair of rap numbers, while Norman Hassan stepped out from behind the bongos to show off his dancing and vocal skills on “Boom Shaka Laka”.
The tracks from the new album included Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain” and “He’ll Have To Go”, best known as a Jim Reeves hit, and although they go went well with an appreciative audience it was the hits that everybody had come to hear and the likes of “Cherry Oh Baby”, “If It Happens Again” and “One In Ten” have everybody up dancing and singing along before the band bring the show to a superb finish with “Red, Red Wine”, “Kingston Town”, which they are nice enough to render as “Grimsby Town” for a couple of choruses (it’s the name of our football team – that’s soccer to you Yanks….) and of course “Can’t Help Falling In Love”.
They head off soon to finish the year in Polynesia and then back into the studio for a new album, hopefully out in the new year, and when they go on tour with that one you’ll find me at the front of the queue.