Gig Review + Photography by John McEvoy

Since UB40 opened for business way back in 1978, they have been one of the UK’s leading advocates of reggae, and the ensuing 40 years have seen them release 18 albums, which have sold in lorry loads, and they also achieved global recognition. Until 2008 there line up was more or less stable, however that year saw the departure of Ali Campbell for well documented reasons. UB40 last night were made up of original members, Robin Campbell, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Earl Falconer and Duncan Campbell stepped in to take over vocal duties after the departure of Ali.

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Sunday night in Leeds and it was apparent from the start that this it would take more than sub-zero temperatures and the threat of heavy snow to deter the people of Yorkshire from turning out to welcome back UB40 to the Leeds Arena.

Maxi Jazz and the E-Type Boys

First up was support from Maxi Jazz and the E-Type Boys who delivered a great rock/funk set which couldn’t have been further from what most people would expect from Maxi. Check out ‘Long time gone’ and ‘smokescreen’ and you’ll get the idea. Have to say he came across a thoroughly decent bloke and engaged with the crowd throughout their set. Always a difficult thing to do as support.

Wouldn’t have minded a blast of ‘Insomnia’ though!

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9:00pm on the button and on walked UB40 to a rapturous welcome from the Leeds crowd and straight into ‘Food for thought’ from their ‘Signing Off’ album. It’s always difficult to take on the role of a lead singer in a well-established band, but I have to say it’s clear why Duncan Campbell got the job, he sounds uncannily like Ali. His harmonies with Robin were as tight as ever and the rest of the band including Brian Travers on sax delivered faithful renditions throughout the evening with the crowd singing along at every given opportunity. Mid way through it was the turn of their bass player Earl Falconer to take centre stage with a couple of tracks including ‘Reggae Music’ which went down a storm at the arena. He knows how to work a crowd!

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Of course there was one track that everyone was waiting for and from the opening line ‘Red Red Wine’ was greeted with another mass singalong and brought the 90 minute set to a close. They weren’t going to allowed to get away without delivering an encore of course they duly obliged, kicking off with a great bass heavy ‘Don’t break my heart’, next up was one of my personal favourites in ‘Kingston Town’, and they brought proceedings to a close with their cover of the Elvis classic, ‘Can’t help falling in love’.

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UB40 put in a decent shift tonight almost 2 hours of quality tunes and they send a happy well refreshed Leeds audience off into the night.

Further tour dates and tickets are still available at some venues. You’ll have to be quick though!

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