Frederick “Toots” Hibbert was born in 1945 and has been playing music since “19 longtime” (at least 1963 anyway) during the days of the Jamaican Ska scene. In 1968 he released a song called “Do the Reggay” which has been widely credited as being one of the first times the word was used. Not sure how true that is but it’s a good story. A stalwart of the scene, he’s still touring and playing regularly and always finds time to touch down in Brighton. He always gets a great welcome here and this one has been sold out for a good while now.
His band consists of drums, bass, keyboards, lead guitar and two female backing singers, with Toots himself on acoustic guitar. Launching straight into “Pressure drop”. he’s all smiles and showmanship and has got the crowd in the palm of his hand from the off. Not only does he have great songs but he keeps the crowd involved the whole time. He’s chatty, energetic and loves getting some call and response going, which the enthusiastic audience is only too keen to do. It’s good that he attracts fans of all ages as is evident here, not just oldies like me who have been following him for years.
His set veers from Ska to Reggae (as befitting his career) and his band are perfectly at ease playing either style. The vocals and music encompass elements of Soul and especially Gospel, with a lot of call and response between band and audience. There’s a great version of their first big international hit from 1970 “Monkey Man”. It’s fantastic to jump around to and has been widely covered by lots of bands, most notably The Specials who always dedicate it to the bouncers :-). The band also launch into a great version of “Sweet and dandy”, my favourite song of his so that’s me sorted :-). Not only is it a great set but he’s onstage for two hours, giving bands more than half his age a lesson is showmanship. Having recently seen George Benson, The Blockheads and now Toots, this female friend of mine asks why is it that the “bus pass generation” are so good when it comes to live shows? A very good question indeed :-).
His encore has to be “54-46 was my number”, a reference to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment on drug possession charges in late 1966, and it’s the tune people have been waiting for judging by the huge positive reaction. I guess it’s a song even non-Reggae lover’s know, a bona fide classic that still sounds great. Definitely one to check out if you’ve never seen him before. Toots is a legend and a star as far as I’m concerned.