UB40 took the Sparks stage Thursday in front of an almost-full house at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
As I took my seat and the concert began, I was a little unsure what the night would bring. In the intimate showroom, the crowd seemed to be content swaying in their seats to the steady reggae-pop beats, drink in one raised hand. Alright. Time to mellow it down. After a long day, I could do this.
The set began with “One in Ten,” a wandering yet attention grabbing social statement on the nameless numbers of poverty stricken across the world.
A few more starters, only recognizable to those who have followed the group’s meanderings over the years, and the fellow concert-goers at my table were looking for the bar. Honestly, the room to stretch my legs was kind of nice.
A few more songs from the band’s most recent release kept the evening rocking steady –almost as much as the lead singer’s rhythmic sway. Then they pulled out the “King.”
“King” had catapulted the band into the spotlight all those years ago in Birmingham, England, catching the attention of their peers and a record label. Twenty-some-odd years later, it got Thursday’s party started as well.
A small group of people danced near the front of the stage as another handful swayed on the upper concourse. “King” brought the rest of the crowd to the party.
Neon blues and fuchsias reflected off of the polished brass of the saxophones and trumpet. Later, beams of rainforest green mixed with rusty reds and yellows cut through the smoky stage air. That little party in the corner near the stage was about to get big.
The night was dominated by the melodic vocals of Robin Campbell, the brother of original pop-Rasta crooner, Ali Campbell. The concert critic’s criticism has tumbled en masse across magazines and Web sites since Ali Campbell left the group in 2008. They say that the sweet, distinct reggae voice which defined American reggae-pop just couldn’t be duplicated. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much difference.
The concert-goers at my table didn’t seem to mind either. A few drinks later and they were all flailing to the wailing beat out in the aisle.
People who go see UB40 aren’t there to see the antics of an onstage band. After all these years, UB40 has become incredibly comfortable and laid back with their audiences. The band knows how to have a good time on the stage, interact well with their audiences and bring a great party.