I can't say that last Friday's WXPN Free-at-Noon artist was someone on my must-see-live list, or even an artist whose music I think about that much, but the instant I found out that Toots and the Maytals were playing, I knew I had to be there.
You might not know it from how I look and dress, but I'm not a huge reggae fan. I've never fully got the whole Bob Marley adoration thing. I've tried. I've even tried Ziggy Marley. Nothing. I just don't think that reggae by itself is very interesting.
But mix it up with a little ska and rock and rhythm & blues and whatever else and now you've got my interest. This might sound lame, but my education in Jamaican music started with the Clash's punk-flavored interpretations and has worked backward from there, so I expect a little more than just the laid-back beats. Toots Hibbert and his band deliver much more than laid-back beats.
I can't say that Toots sounded great in concert, since the sound system seemed a bit weak down at the World Cafe Live (or at least from where I was standing), but he did put on quite a show. You would never guess that Mr. Hibbert is almost 62(!) years old. The guy moves around the stage like he's still in his twenties. He reminded me of a Jamaican (and, you know, still alive) James Brown, without the big ego. Without any ego at all, really.
Toots has a new disc out, but he played plenty of older hits - like "Funky Kingston" and "54-46, That's My Number." And he and the band played for a relatively long time for a free noontime concert - almost an hour.
My spot right next to the stage was great when I got to be one of the lucky few to shake Toots' hand as he wrapped up his set, but it wasn't that great a spot for taking pictures. For most of the concert Toots was blocked from my view by his backup singers (who were, oddly enough, placed up front) but he did come to the edge of the stage every once in a while so I did get a few shots, which I've posted over at Flickr. I just can't say I'm real happy with how they came out. As always, NPR has archived their broadcast of the show, which came out just fine.
Next week: Nellie McKay.