It began with some foot tapping. Then, as the show went on, we moved on to some head bopping. By the time the hits began flowing like red, red wine during the tail end of the UB40 concert on March 30, the crowd just could not help falling in love with the beat, and were already on their feet, dancing.
But before we talk more about the concert, here’s a little background about the band.
Did you know that there are actually two different bands calling themselves UB40? The original UB40 was founded in 1978; lead vocalist Ali Campbell, along with percussionist Astro and keyboardist Mickey Virtue, were founding members of the so-called “classic UB40 line-up”.
Campbell left the original UB40 in 2008 after 30 years, with Virtue following suit that same year, and Astro leaving in 2013. In 2014, the three decided to come together and form a new UB40, which is known officially as “UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Astro, and Mickey Virtue”. This was the version of UB40 that played at KL Live last week.
The band’s official website (UB40.org) proudly proclaims that “Only with Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40, reunited with Astro and Mickey can audiences get to experience the closest thing to the sound of the hugely successful original line-up of UB40.”
However, the remaining six members of the original UB40 (which includes Ali’s brothers Duncan and Robin) have been disputing their use of the UB40 name, and are currently taking them to court over the matter.
Still, no matter whose side you’re on in the whole issue, it’s hard to argue that Campbell was THE voice of UB40 for 30 years, and the one that most fans would associate the group with.
During the concert at KL Live, it was clear that songs like Red Red Wine and (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love would not have sounded the same without his signature vocals.
Anyway, the concert was supposed to start at 8pm, but the band only came on stage at 8.45pm, just as I was beginning to think that I’d be 40 before UB40 came on.
Kicking things off with the band’s popular cover of the Al Green hit Here I Am (Come And Get Me), the catchy number managed to get the mostly seated crowd to start tapping their feet from the get go.
In fact, I don’t think those feet stopped tapping throughout the concert, so infectious were the reggae beats the eight-piece band was throwing out throughout its set.
That wasn’t enough for the band though. No, they wanted everyone up and dancing. “We’re not a reggae band. We are a dance band and we want you to get up and dance!” Campbell exclaimed at one point.
The band played a set of 23 songs that included classic UB40 hits like Homely Girl, Food For Thought and The Way You Do The Things You Do, and the trio’s new material such as Silhouette, Missing You and Cyber Bully Boys.
The biggest cheers (and the ones that really got the crowd up and dancing) were of course, for UB40’s three most recognisable hits – (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love, Kingston Town and Red Red Wine – which they only played at the very end of the concert.
By the time the mass singalong of Red Red Wine was over, there was not a single person who cared one hoot whether or not this was the “real” UB40 – at least Campbell, Astro, and Virtue had already given us the best version of the UB40 we all remembered.