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Soul rhythm from an exhilarating teacher.

Byline: Matt McKenzie

Toots and the Maytals, Newcastle O2 Academy ARE you ready for the pressure to drop? asks the nice guitarist on stage.

And on saunters Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert, humming some of the most famous hums in reggae and he's off.

The little boxer is dressed as he always is: sleeveless leather waistcoat, headscarf and shades.

Reggae Got Soul is an early highlight. Understated at first but, it turns out, something pretty Pentecostal; this is a reggae revival meeting with Toots the preacher who's blessing us all.

He points out to the crowd, hand hovering over the audience - "I got soul, you got soul, he got soul" - and it sets out the motif for this gig, one brushed with gospel music.

"Tonight I'll be the teacher, you're the student," Toots tells us, launching a sprightly Sweet and Dandy, then a calypso-tinged Louie Louie.

He straps on an acoustic guitar and strums his way back to where it all began: a languid Bam Bam, winner of the first Jamaican Song Contest.

Then follows a remarkable bluesy, soupy, swirling acoustic jam until a euphoric "hey hey" reveals it as a gripping intro to the mighty Funky Kingston.

"I want you to believe everything I do," Toots sings before he gets down on to one knee and nods.

There's a shimmering Take Me Home, Country Roads, then Monkey Man explodes, very loudly. His prison song 54-46 (That's My Number) is half rap, half gospel. We finish with more spiritrousing.

"I believe," he sings, "Hallelujah". It's exhilarating. Toots is in raptures and so am I. This was sensational.

Matt McKenzie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2011
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