Toots and the Maytals bring good vibes to Showcase

A review of Toots and the Maytals at Showcase Live! on October 10

, Contributing Writer

Even during an ALCS Red Sox game, rock and reggae brought a well-rounded crowd out to Showcase Live! in Foxboro on Friday night.

Headliners Toots and the Maytals took the stage and gave the crowd an encouraging welcome, “We’re not a sit-down kind of band. Come down and stake out your spot now” said Jamaican native Toots Hibbert. The band opened with their “Get Up, Stand Up” as more people made their way to the floor in front of the stage.

The band followed with their cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and it was surprising not only how well the song works for reggae, but how similar Hibbert’s voice is at times to Charles’. It has elements of those deep throaty rasps and soulfully scraping high hollow notes that Charles was a master of.

As the band worked through their songs, the floor filled up. It was an extremely diverse crowd – there were long-hairs and gray-hairs, buttoned-ups and dread locks all swaying and bouncing together. It seems reggae has the uncanny ability to bring people together.

Hibbert’s daughter, backup singer Leba-Hibbert Thomas had a chance to show her own musical ability on “True Love is Hard to Find”. The rest of the bandmates created a breezy sound that melded together well to give the group their feel-good vibe.

There were issues with the sound system throughout the night, and Hibbert had to stop to address the problem. He asked the man running the sound board to check his microphone, because it kept reverberating with feedback. He was clearly upset over the ordeal, asking “What’s my name?” as if his fame should prevent him from having to deal with matters like this. He didn’t let it ruin the evening, though and the band played quite a very long, happy set.

For audience-favorite and final song, “54-46 That’s My Number” he pulled over 30 people on stage to sing and dance with him. It’s amazing how Hibbert took such a bleak topic as his jail-time and turned it into the upbeat smash-hit that it has become. The whole house was hopping and bopping to this one, including the packed stage.

Wrapping up the evening, as the audience began to wear down, Toots left with good tidings. Apparently forgiving of the sound issues, he said, “What’s the name of this place? It’s a very nice place. We’ve been coming through Boston…and this is one of the best places we play.”

The night began with Boston Music Spotlight’s 2008 Battle of the Bands winner, Hello Mahalo. The local band features Justin Joyce, on vocals and bass, Jared Pizzaro and Justin Hardy on guitars, and Tom Stanwood on drums. There’s no shortage of talent or good looks among these four rockers.

They’re a little Sublime meets Maroon 5, which turns out to be a combination that works. From poppy upstrokes to longer smooth riffs and intricate plucking duets, the range of guitar sounds gives their music its fullness. During “Son” Pizzaro and Hardy had a chance to show their stuff with well-crafted solos and refreshing jams that were skillfully intriguing.

Most notable among their songs was “Dawning Days” with its haunting sound and dark lyrics: “Slip on my shades, to dim the dawning days. No more sunrise in my eyes, could kill the pain.” It’s a very catchy tune that showcases Joyce’s wide vocal range.

“If you can tell, and I hope you can, we are not Toots & the Maytals”, Joyce said between songs. I’m sure no one actually made that mistake, but if Hello Mahalo gained any Foxboro followers from the Toots fan club from this performance, they’re in luck, because Hello Mahalo will be playing at Patriot Place on Saturday, Oct. 18.

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