Review: Toots and the Maytals at Bourbon Street in New Port Richey
Toots Hibbert is a man of great passion, a man of hope. It really took only a few monstrously-soulful verses and some toes-on-fire dance steps Friday night at Bourbon Street in New Port Richey to see that.
Whether he was encouraging folks to let their “love light shine” or to fly “higher and higher,” the 64-year-old singer for Toots and the Maytals injected “north county” with a much-needed dose of optimism.
But let’s start from the beginning.
For all we know, without Toots, the genre we now call “reggae” could have just as easily been named “spliffbeat” or “ham sandwich.”An announcer made it a point to mention this among Toots’ many musical accomplishments just seconds before the reggae legend hit the stage. An 8-piece Toots and the Maytals then kicked things off with 1968 genre-coining hit Do the Reggay (the first-ever song to use the word reggae in the title).
On Pressure Drop, Toots got an assist from two lovely, blissful backup vocalists. On Reggae Got Soul, perhaps the most appropriately-titled of all Toots songs, he injected the ending with extra gusto. The normally dark Bourbon Street now resembled the Baptist church of reggae, a place where you’d be eager to fill the collection plate each week.
And whoever called reggae a “subdued” genre clearly hasn’t heard Funky Kingston live. Toots received full audience participation on the “nah nah nah’s,” and despite the fact that he held the microphone near his belly button, he hit notes that could be heard from the International Space Station.True Love is Hard to Find was bubbly and beautiful and Country Roads (where he subs “West Jamaica” for “West Virginia") sounded as if John Denver meant to write it just for Toots.
Nearing the close of his set, he embarked on mission to shake hands with each of the fans hugging the guard railing, calling out “I want to know who you are.” Toots then reverted back to the hit he’s “been playing for many, many years,” 54-46 Was My Number (covered later by Sublime).
For a song that describes his arrest and 18-month lockup for marijuana possession, Toots was still all-smiles here. In fact, he took some time out to tell a few jokes about our poorly-timed fist pumps and to remind us that “we’re all beautiful.”
Thank you, Toots! We needed it.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*