UB 40 – Live at Nostell Priory, England (June 2014)

UB 40 – Live at Nostell Priory, England (June 2014)

Bit of background first.  The band UB40 is named after the unemployment benefit form that you had to complete in the 1970s in order to claim welfare from the Department of Health and Social Security.  This department was eventually replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions and the form UB40 was then replaced by the very similar form ES40JP.

UB40, the band, has experienced similar upheavals.  Nowadays you can go see UB40 or Ali Campbell’s UB40 (a sort of UB40 or ES40JP if you like).  Tonight it’s Ali’s outfit we are off to see in the stately setting of Nostell Priory near the city of Wakefield, England.

Ali Campbell was UB40s original lead singer and right from the get-go it’s clear he wants to prove that his band is the real deal and not the other outfit now fronted by his brother!  Fellow original band members Astro Wilson and Mickey Virtue are on stage with him, together with an eight man backing band consisting of brass, keyboards, vocals, guitar, drums and bass.

Early on it’s the brass section which makes the biggest impact.  During the song ‘Here I Am’ they belt-out notes like a Sunday morning Gospel group.  It’s hard to imagine this sound is coming from just three musicians.  It’s so powerful you’re looking to see if the full Brighouse and Rastrick ‘massive’ are in the background.

Despite the years Ali’s voice has lost none of its warmth or character.  This is particularly evident during the crowd pleasing ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ where he carries the song aloft encouraging the crowd to join in, which they do enthusiastically.  Ali demonstrates his vocal prowess again during ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’, which allows him to tug at the heart strings in a way that only the original singer, Elvis Presley, could do.

Next it’s Astro’s turn with another firm favourite ‘Rat In My Kitchen’.  He has the kind of Caribbean toasting voice that has come to define British reggae.  When he sings “you open your mouth you don’t talk you shout” he has a weight of authority about him that you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Reggae is played at a slower tempo than other Caribbean music, such as Ska, and a criticism of UB40 is that they play all their songs in this way regardless of whether the song really suits it.  This becomes apparent during ‘Purple Rain’ which would probably go unrecognised by its own writer (Prince) if it were not for the memorable chorus.

The show builds to a climax first with ‘Kingston Town’ with its wonderful keyboard and dampened guitar sounds.  Then it’s time for ‘Red Red Wine’.  Ali, never the most mobile of stage performers, manages a relatively agile performance and his fellow band mates join in on the soaring chorus. 

Ali’s UB40 have a new album scheduled for release in September.  For those who are faithful to this version of the band they already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  And they know, just like tonight’s performance, it won’t disappoint them. 


(June 2014) 

%d bloggers like this: