UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey, performing their Silhouette Tour at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Thursday 9th April 2015

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

With there being two bands called UB40, both fronted by a Campbell brother, it would be easy to get confused as to which one you had bought tickets for. The group of family and friends from Birmingham who got together in 1978 to form a band named after a government unemployment form, have had their well-publicised acrimonious disagreements and parting of the waves. Lead singer Ali Campbell left the group in 2008, followed by keyboard player Mickey Virtue. Forming their own UB40, the band was complete when Astro joined them in November 2013.

So it was Ali, Astro and Mickey’s UB40 who took to the stage tonight to a packed Royal Concert Hall, complete with an eight piece band that included a brilliant horn section. The party began with the Al Green cover, Here I Am (Come And Take Me) which had the audience immediately on their feet. Still standing for The Chi-Lites cover, Homely Girl and The Temptations The Way You Do The Things You Do, it was Astro’s turn to make his mark with Folitician.

But it was UB40’s huge hits Cherry Oh Baby, Would I Lie To You and One In Ten that had this audience singing and dancing, whilst tracks from their new album, Silhouette were also well received. Cyber Bully Boys written about Astros alleged treatment by his former band members was particularly good if you ignored the politics behind it, whilst Fijian Sunset had all the hall marks of the former UB40.

With the three of them having played together for over 30 years, they have helped to define reggae music for several generations. This version of UB40 benefited from the inclusion of Astro because now they were able to perform Rat In Mi Kitchen without having to improvise, and with his first words he took us straight down memory lane.

With hits Kingston Town and (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love prompting an ovation, the set was brought to an end. For the encore, the first notes of Red Red Wine had everyone singing which could be heard long after this two hour set had finished. Their longevity makes them the Status Quo of reggae, and on this performance it doesn’t matter what they call themselves, Ali, Astro and Mickey still know how to throw a party.

But watching them perform, I couldn’t help but remember what it used to be like before the spilt; a solid unit that truly entertained; whose songs are sung by all generations and more importantly, usually contained a message that is sheer poetry and thought provoking. Having stood in a muddy field, soaking wet watching the whole band at a Milton Keynes gig where they supported The Police many more moons ago than I care to remember, there is a little sad reflection. The band was everything that all aspiring musicians want to be involved with; a great band who were having fun with their friends and family.

If you can’t decide which camp to support; then ignore all of the negative press and go and see them both. This is UB40 in whatever guise and they were all born to entertain with a lithe but potent sound which delights all of their fans.