Posted by Brittany Barth on 11/07 at 04:02 PM
Seeing the Toots and the Maytals perform at The State Theatre on Monday night happened by chance. During my first class last Thursday morning, my professor offered what would now be “two free tickets” to see the Toots and the Maytals perform as he could no longer go. “They play reggae music,” he said. Instead of allowing him to elaborate further (which may have encouraged another one of my peers to snatch the tickets before I could) I piped up. “I’ll go!”
And so the tickets were mine.
Prior to attending the concert, I did a bit of research into the band I would be experiencing on Monday night. Who is Toot exactly? Who are these Maytals and where did they come from?
The band originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, and began unleashing their “island sound” upon the world. The band has consisted of several members throughout the years, but the constant has always been the frontman, Frederick “Toots” Hibbert. The Toots and the Maytals have created numerous albums since their debut, with a whopping 57 albums available on iTunes.
This band is no “one hit wonder”. And right here, in downtown State College, they proved why they’ve been able to be please fans for over five decades.
The State Theatre was packed with a mixed crowd of both younger and older people, and while the ages among the audience varied, we all shared the same energy. As soon as the light dimmed, the audience began to chant: “Toots! Toots! Toots!” in unison. After hearing the sea of voices call out to him, “Toots” appeared on stage, accompanied by his drummer, bassist, and two backup singers. He was donned in a red leather vest with white piping and pants to match. This is not a look that many can pull off, but one that “Toots” looked fierce in.
He slipped his guitar over his head and introduced himself with his song, “Reggae Got Soul” off of his 1991 album of the same name. There was an instantaneous reaction of head bobbing and foot tapping as the soulful sounds of Jamaica overcame the crowd. The original recording of the song is moderately paced throughout, but “Toots” began to quicken the rhythm as the end of the song approached, and his band members followed. The audience became even more energized, now aware of the kind of performance this reggae band was about to put on.
After “Reggae Got Soul” ended, “Toots” provided us with an anecdote about his experience recording his first songs in Jamaica. He told us of how his producer made a great deal of money from “Toots’” first album, and how “Toots” walked away with only a few shillings. This would be the first of many stories that “Toots” would regale us with throughout the night.
The band began their next song, “Pressure Drop” from the album Funky Kingston. The song maintains a pleasing and relaxing slow pace, and as I was listening to the song, I realized it was one that I had heard before. The song was featured in the film 50 First Dates and was also covered by various artists including the English rock band, The Clash.
After the song ended and the applause subsided, “Toots” provided us with some background as to why he created the song he was about to play: “This was a song I created [so that] people all over the world [would know that] I’m the one who invented the word reggae”. It may be a bold statement to some, but the audience responded in agreement through whistles and applause. After performing “Do The Reggay” for his crowd, “Toots” certainly proved that if there is one thing he knows how to do, it’s reggae.
As the concert went on, and the interaction between the audience and Toots and the Maytals increased, whole aisles of people began to engage in their own private dance parties, encouraging others to do the same. The whole theatre was filled with happiness, with love for this band, with excitement. These feelings were contagious, and I couldn’t help but smile at the audience surrounding me, who came alive because of this music.
The band performed their song “Celia” for which “Toots” had another anecdote: “The words of this song are very important to me,” he begins. “[Being] on tour for four years is a very long time…A beautiful girl took many things from my home…I wrote this song for her.” From the list of items that Celia allegedly stole while Toots was away, it seems she took everything but the kitchen sink. He tells us the story in detail through the lyrics and we learn that the song is not only fun, but full of soul and full of truth.
After “Celia” concluded, “Toots” played several fan favorites including, “Sweet And Dandy”, “True Love Is Hard To Find” and “Dilly Dally”. He also performed two covers, “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” by Otis Redding and “Country Roads” by John Denver.
Throughout the night, one audience member cried out numerous times for “Toots” to play, “Was My Number”. “Toots” obliged, and closed the concert with the request.
Everyone in the theatre was on their feet, dancing with one another, laughing, enjoying the moment. This was one of the best concerts—one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and it happened to me by chance.
I learned several things at the Toots and the Maytals concert on Monday night: that was some of the best reggae music I’ve ever heard, this is a band who knows how to put on a show and connect with their audience, but most importantly, great music - all music - brings people together.
Author: Brittany Barth
Bio: My name is Brittany Barth, an English major currently in my senior year at Penn State. I am a lover of food, John Mayer, all things nautical and cats. It has always been a dream of mine to be the lead singer of a (successful) band. After graduation, my goal is to become a Young Adult fiction novelist, but I would love to be an advice columnist prior to that. I am excited about graduation and what the future holds for me!
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