Toots & the Maytals | Fox Theater | Boulder, CO

Article Contributed by Philip Emma | Published on Thursday, May 20, 2010

It was a nice Mother’s day in Boulder, CO, and is there a better way to spend the evening than with the Toots & the Maytals at the Fox Theatre? There seemed to be a good Rasta vibe permeating through the Fox tonight. The bartenders were all smiles as usual, including long time bar tender Spotty, who is the best bartender in the city, and his happy to serve lifestyle was extra vibrant as well.

The opening band was called Rey Fresco (Spanish for King Fresh) from Venture, CA, and it was their first time playing at the Fox, and they made it a point to say that they were very happy to be there. Their sound had an African/Caribbean disco march to it at times. They were light, refreshing, and almost tropical sounding. Their most unique attribute was the use of the 36 string Veracruz harp built by the father of harp player and vocalist Xocoyotzin “Xoco” Moraza, who also holds a degree in ethnomusicology. They played a few really good songs in their set, but none captured my attention more than when they covered “Amor Verdadero,” by the Afro Cuban Allstars. I love that song, and Moraza nailed it on the vocals. The songs that he sang were my favorite throughout the evening.

After a good opener, Toots Hibbert graced the stage to a thunderous applause. Toots has been mystifying audiences since the 1960’s. He’s part of an elite group of reggae and ska founders which include Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. They opened the show with a classic, “Time Tough” and followed with other popular songs “Pressure Drop” and “Reggae Got Soul.” They also mixed in a perfect dose of their new album, which came out digitally on 4/20 of this year called Flip & Twist. One of my favorite songs from the album, they played in the middle of their set. It’s called “Almighty Way,” and it is the perfect combination of a gospel soul beat, which made me feel as though I was in church shakin’ my hands and stompin’ my feet. Hibbert played the harmonica, and shortly after wished everyone in the audience a happy Mother’s day. Toots’ voice has often been compared to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. That’s what made the next song so special. He sang “I Got Dreams to Remember” by Otis Redding fabulously. The range and vibrato that he inhibits in his soul music vocals are most evident in songs of this genre.  The end of the show featured the John Denver cover “Country Roads” and a Toots stand by “Monkey Man.” Towards the end of the set I heard them tease “54-46 Was My Number” several times, and sure enough it was one of their two encores. That was the made up jail number he used in 1966 after serving a small sentence for marijuana or as Hibbert puts it, “bailing out a friend.” Keyboard players Charles “The Bulge” Farquarson and Norris “Computer” Webb played a very connected show displaying their music diversity and their ability to play as one.

Check out more of Phil's photos from the show.