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Cambridge crowd sways to the beat of UB40

UB40 live. Picture: Martin Porter
UB40 live. Picture: Martin Porter

The legendary purveyors of reggae played a varied set drawing from nearly 40 years of hits.

UB40 on stage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Picture: Adrian Peel
UB40 on stage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Picture: Adrian Peel

Next year, the Birmingham band will celebrate 40 years since their formation. What better way to kick off the proceedings on Monday, December 18, then, than with Food for Thought, the song that started it all.

Reaching number four in the UK charts in 1980 – and paired with the equally memorable King – it was the perfect opener.

Led by brothers Robin and Duncan Campbell (the latter lead vocalist since 2008 following the departure of younger brother, Ali Campbell, who has since formed another version of the band with long-time members Astro and Mickey Virtue), the band jumped back and forth between the decades – Come Back Darling (1998), Cherry Oh Baby (1983) and Midnight Rider (2013) were early crowd-pleasers.

“This one is especially for the hardore fans,” said guitarist/vocalist Robin ahead of Bring Me Your Cup, one of UB40’s finest moments from my favourite album of theirs, 1993’s Promises & Lies.

UB40 on stage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Picture: Adrian Peel
UB40 on stage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Picture: Adrian Peel

Robin sang a lovely Sweet Sensation and the ever-groovy I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight was dedicated to the “late, great Robert Palmer,” who duetted on the track with UB40 back in 1990.

Bass player Earl Falconer – one of five founding members – came out front to sing Reggae Music and Baby, and he was followed by percussionist Norman Hassan – another orginal member – who sang Boom Shacka Lacka and his signature tune, Johnny Too Bad.

Red Red Wine had the audience heartily singing along, as did Kingston Town and Can’t Help Falling in Love in the encore.

While I do hope that the original UB40 get back together again one day – though it’s looking less likely with each passing year – it was an absolute pleasure to hear these songs again.


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