Toots & the Maytals
with Tribal Style and Rocksteady@8
The Rubb, Tampa, FL • May 1, 1999
For the first time in my life, I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be Toots Hibbert.
Toots held court for nearly two hours, as loyal subjects came from miles around to pay fealty to one of the undisputed kings of reggae and ska music, and bask in the power of his incredible voice. Although he’s well into his fifties, that voice is still as incredible as ever, coasting through a flawless set of timeless classics, including “54-46,” “Time Tough,” “Monkey Man,” “Pressure Drop,” and many more. Toots seemed to draw power from the audience, frequently touching hands with them, pausing to sign autographs during an instrumental break, and even inviting fans on stage to dance with him, filling it past capacity not once, but twice.
Meanwhile, the “Maytals Band” (as they were billed by the MC who introduced them, and who also provided some modern-day hip hop-style toasting on a few numbers) kept the groove steady, while two angelic female back-up singers accented the songs with sweet harmonies. However, the focal point was undeniably Toots, who walked the stage as though he owned it, and danced with an almost religious fervor and with the spirit of a man half his age. His performance was a revelation unto itself, making it extremely easy to understand why the man is an inspiration and a legend.
It might sound risky to book a brand-new band to open such an important show, but Rocksteady@8, an all-star conglomerate made up of members of Magadog, the Strangeways, Pork Pie Tribe, Amandala Tunesmith, and others, rose admirably to the occasion. Their short set, largely comprised of classic covers, including “Shanty Town” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” got the crowd into a dancing mood. Dual frontmen Ed Lowery and Jason Nwagbarocha harmonize together beautifully and the band sounded even better than you’d expect. More, please!
Florida’s finest reggae band, Tribal Style, rounded out the evening in the middle slot, and their usual tasty riddims kept the crowd grooving as they awaited the master’s presence. With their authentic and infectious sound, they were certainly a wise choice for rounding out a perfect evening. Still in all, it was the performance of Toots himself that provided the memories that the crowd will treasure forever.