CESAREO GARASA: Ready for reggae? UB40 returns with pals for latest tour
- BY CESAREO GARASA For The Californian
With a string of massive hits in a career spanning over 40 years, British band UB40 is arguably reggae music's greatest global ambassador this side of Bob Marley.
The band's show on Sept. 17 at the Dignity Health Amphitheatre is part of its "Bigga Baggariddim" tour, named after their 2021 release of the same name — the band's 21st.
"Bigga Baggariddim," much like its 1983 "Labour of Love" album of cover songs — and its monster hit "Red Red Wine" — that led to three sequels, is itself a follow-up to its 1985 album "Baggariddim."
Much like that previous release, UB40 has teamed up with a variety of guest artists including KIOKO, Inner Circle, Blvk H3ro, Leno Banton, Tippa Irie and House of Shem. As with "Baggariddim," these collaborations often see different musicians performing over the same instrumental piece. It's an interesting experiment on listening how different vocalists can approach the same material with varied — or sometimes similar — results.
Songs like "You Don't Call Anymore," a collaboration with KIOKO, and the popping "Whatever Happened to the Have Nots?" with Blvk H3ro, show an effective willingness to evolve and adapt to the current reggae-pop musical landscape UB40 helped create.
Although original vocalist Ali Campbell left the group in 2008 (and ended up forming his own version of UB40), the group playing Sept. 17 retains the majority of the original lineup that has been together since 1979. This includes Campbell's brother Robin Campbell on guitar.
After Ali Campbell's departure, brother Duncan Campbell stepped into the lead singer role (the three brothers are sons of Scottish folk singer Ian Campbell) until health issues led to Duncan leaving the band in 2021. Singer Matt Doyle, formerly of the band Kioko, has performed with the band since then.
The band, whose name stands for "Unemployment Benefits, Form 40," has endured some recent tragedies, including the loss of saxophonist Brian Travers and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Astro in 2021. The weight of that history will be felt throughout the night even as the band performs some of its greatest hits like its versions of "Here I Am Baby," the brilliant "Please Don't Make Me Cry," "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" and "The Way You Do the Things You Do." "If It Happens Again" is another personal favorite.
Also performing that evening will be The Original Wailers, which is mainly American-born guitarist Al Anderson who performed with Bob Marley's backing band The Wailers; Maxi Priest, the British reggae singer whose biggest stateside hit was his 1990 single "Close to You" and who was at one time rumored to be in contention to be Ali Campbell's replacement in UB40; and Big Mountain, the San Diego-based reggae band who broke big with their 1994 cover of the Peter Frampton hit "Baby, I Love Your Way."
Reggae bands sure know how to play a cover tune.
It would be very easy to make a flippant joke about the heat onstage matching the heat offstage — I guess I just did — but I cannot stress enough about how dangerous it is out there for some folks in this punishing, constricting, oppressive heat. Please stay hydrated and try to stay cool — in more ways than the obvious.
UB40's "Bigga Baggariddim" tour, 6 p.m. Sept. 17, Dignity Health Amphitheatre, 11200 Stockdale Highway. $45-$85, $150-$260 for VIP; tickets at axs.com. 661-852-7300.
Southern California-based drummer, singer (he sings as he plays) and bandleader Dave Tull is unassumingly charismatic and very entertaining. You can't keep your eyes off of him and your ears are the better for it.
He will perform Sept. 20 at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop for the musical institution's 16th anniversary. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. with Tull and his able trio — including superb bassist Kevin Axt — conducting an hourlong music clinic. After a 45-minute meet and greet, the trio will perform a concert from 8:30 to 9:15 p.m. delving deep into Tull's songbook, which will hopefully include selections from his fun 2018 album "Texting and Driving." The title track is about, well, that. (Spoiler: don't.)
Tull's musical style has been described as David Frishberg (the composer and lyricist for the 1976 "I'm Just a Bill" segment from the ABC Schoolhouse Rock! series) meets Gershwin. It's full of humor, witty wordplay, occasional whimsy and a whole lot of sophistication.
Watching him sing and play is almost like watching a Disney or Pixar movie's idea of what a singing drummer would be like, which is appropriate considering Tull's worked with both (as well as with Barbra Streisand and Chuck Mangione). Don't be deceived: Tull, who also performed at the workshop in 2010, is a talent that might not outright appear to have a lot of obvious fireworks but leaves an inner mounting flame with you of its own.
Bakersfield Jazz Workshop 16th anniversary, featuring the Dave Tull Trio, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Petroleum Club at Sundale Country Club, 6218 Sundale Ave. Free admission.
T.S.O.L., 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, Great Change Brewing, 4200 Resnik Court. $22, available at ticketweb.com (search "t.s.o.l."). 661-735-5016.
In my opinion, there is no better punk band than Orange County's T.S.O.L., aka True Sounds of Liberty. The band returns to Bakersfield on Sept. 16 to perform at Great Change Brewing.
Its dramatic, gothic style mixed with raw, sharp musicianship and punk rock aggression was a huge inspiration for me growing up in Lancaster. Discovering T.S.O.L. in junior high through my friends felt like I was privy to some deep, dark secret. Its records were hard to find, especially two of my favorites: the 1981 self-titled debut EP with its stark, high-contrast black-and-white Ed Colver-photographed cover art and "Beneath the Shadows," which found the band embracing synthesizers, adding greater sonic complexity to its sound like The Cure did in 1980 with "Seventeen Seconds."
Wait, synthesizers? In punk? In 1983? Synths were for new wave! It didn't matter. T.S.O.L. did it anyway.
But the work the band is most remembered by is its flawless 1981 album "Dance With Me," a spooky, powerful, shocking (the necromantic "Code Blue" still stops people in their tracks) and timeless work that lives on as the connecting tissue between British gloom and doom, California punk rock and early 1980s skateboard culture.
Original drummer Todd Barnes, one of the finest and fiercest drummers of any genre, passed away in 1999, a few years after the original quartet reunited, and the three surviving members, singer Jack Grisham, guitarist Ron Emory and bassist Mike Roche, still tour together to this day.
I expect the upcoming show at Great Change to be similar to its 2019 performance at Jerry's Pizza: electric, incredible and a reunion for a lot of older fans who only make it out to funerals, weddings and shows like this. Heck, maybe some of the members of The Offspring might show up again like they did at Jerry's? Cheering on their friends on stage.
Also scheduled to perform at this all-ages show are Toxic Energy, Infirmities (who I believe also played at that Jerry's Pizza show) Rabid Assault and With Liberty providing some unintentional redundancy to the proceedings by the sheer fact that there is now a show where both True Sounds of Liberty and With Liberty exist.
Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa brings you The Lowdown on local music and entertainment every other Thursday.