Thankful for Toots and the Maytals

The night before Thanksgiving, November 21st, the legendary reggae band Toots and the Maytals played a joyous show at the Coach House. On tour from their home in Jamaica, Toots and the Maytals played some of their most classic songs “Pressure Drop,” “54-46 Was My Number,” and “Monkey Man” to a grateful and enthusiastic crowd. Called a living legend by many, Toots is one of the founding fathers of the reggae music, deeply influencing the ska and rock steady styles. His 1968 single “Do the Reggay” is credited as inventing the word reggae. Most members of my generation discovered the music of Toots and the Maytals through covers of his songs by artists like Sublime, the Specials, and Amy Winehouse.

Toots’ soulful voice and charming stage presence made for a wonderful show. The 70-year-old singer, whose rich voice remarkably seems unaffected by time, told hilarious anecdotes about the life experiences which inspired his classic songs. This light-hearted banter with the audience made hearing such well-known songs a more intimate experience. The band’s moving set, which skillfully fused the soul, gospel, reggae and rock styles, was played in a fairly minimal acoustic style. Toots was on guitar and lead vocals backed by bass, percussion, and two female backup singers, singing tight harmonies. A particular crowd favorite was their reggae-style performance of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, County Roads.” Performed with passionate conviction, I frankly like it better than the original.

Opening for the band was the New Orleans-based, folk singer Anders Osborne.  Osborne performed a soulful and honest set of New Orleans-style blues with just vocals and his guitar. Originally from Sweden but making the US his home since he was 16, Osborne crafts skillful and compelling blues-infused compositions. He later joined the Maytals on stage, backing the band up with additional rhythm guitar.

The entire evening was a perfect beginning to the Thanksgiving holiday. Toots, Osborne and all the members of the Maytals were clearly doing what they love and were conveying a sense of joy, honesty, and fun through their music. It made me grateful to be alive in the moment, sharing those songs with the living legend Toots.  At the end of the euphoric show, the Maytals shook hands with the front rows of the audience and said their thank yous. The feeling was very mutual.


Photography by Judith Anderson:



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