Live Review: UB40

25 November 2015 | 3:59 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"Whether it's UB40 with their original singer or brother, it's a satisfying live music experience."

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The queue snaking around the corner and up Hosier Lane before doors open is as long as you'd expect before a Justin Bieber concert. It seems UB40 fans are prepared to seriously line up for booth seating and these are snapped up super-fast as we wander down Forum Theatre's aisles. A lengthy intro tape that sounds like an action movie soundtrack doesn't exactly set the scene we desire leading into a set by the British reggae/pop band that shares a name with their country's Unemployment Benefit form 40.

UB40's long-time vocalist Ali Campbell left the group in 2008 and his brother, Duncan, stepped into his shoes, but apart from that the remainder of the band's line-up comprises original players (plus a couple of touring recruits). They immediately get into some unison sidestepping action across the front of the stage and we're unsure whether to mirror them or go the opposite way. Amazingly, we spot no dreadlocks in the house - either onstage or off - and only one lonely beanie in rasta colours enlivens the front rows.

Lead guitarist Robin Campbell introduces a song about "drug dependency", You Could Meet Somebody.You've gotta hate returning from a quick loo break just as the band prepare to launch into a new song. After said newie, Sweet Sensation fails to hit the sweet spot. There are some enjoyable moments, but then the fun parabola frowns when bassist Earl Falconer takes over on lead vocals for a coupla songs. You can imagine Campbell looked exactly the same as he does now (if a little smaller in scale) when he was a child. His funky, fluid dance moves pick up on nuances in the music and he obviously couldn't remain motionless up there if he tried.

Food For Thought is an absolute highlight with dual sax appeal, even if Brian Travers' show-pony shenanigans and the constant skyward thrusting with his instrument are completely over the top. Travers also points at punters mid-performance like frontmen/guitarists usually do. For the song's duration, however, we sway and forget about everything. Here I Am (Come And Take Me) continues on this theme and we're set adrift on memory bliss and ready to take anything that comes our way by the hand. There's a communal fumble for camera phones leading into Red Red Wine and much shit footage is recorded. There are some extra key trills that piss plus one off during this song's live arrangement, however. 

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A genuine encore sees UB40 return to the stage. Don't Break My Heart is both tender and haunting, and is particularly enjoyed given Travers is currently lurking upstage is the shadows (although he does make his presence felt with a piercing whistle that spoils this song's atmosphere at one point). Someone should ban new songs in encores, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain or otherwise. Travers expertly plays wind synthesiser in Kingston Town and then UB40 close with Can't Help Falling In Love, which has a karaoke feel about it since our crowd sing-along overwhelms the vocals. Whether it's UB40 with their original singer or brother, it's a satisfying live music experience. But no Rat In Mi Kitchen is an oversight.