Toots and the Maytals: Avalon, Boston, MA 3/28/07

Toots and the Maytals performed a hits filled set at Boston’s Avalon Ballroom, letting anyone in doubt know that this age old act is still alive and kicking. Toots Hibbert, has led the group through trials, tribulations, and plenty of lineup changes over the years, but with a catalog of genre defining songs, Toots and Co. have clearly stood tall through musical decades.

The night’s performance kicked off with an instrumental number that eased the crowd into the group’s reggae rhythms before the legend himself took the stage. As Toots moved into the spotlight, his backup group tore into a bass-rattling version of “Pressure Drop” that set the pace for the evening.

Synchronized sessions of call-and-response, well orchestrated clap-a-thons, and a mesmerizing stage presence were just a few of the tricks Toots had up his sleeve to gradually bring the crowd’s energy higher and higher. As the show continued to move through classic after classic, songs like “Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston” kept every ass in the house shaking like there was no tomorrow.

When Hibbert led his band through a somber version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” he strutted back and forth across the stage, while front-row fans desperately reached to give the icon knuckle love as though a high-five from Toots was a form of currency.

Deeper into the set, Toots offered up center stage to one of his backup singers, while she lead the crowd through a soulful ballad that exceeded expectations. Often times, when a front man attempts to familiarize a crowd with members of the backup band, the deed is often met with an abundance of yawning from the crowd. However, the folks at the Avalon seemed eager to buy what she was singing. Leaving the stage for a quick breather, the group returned to the stage for an encore of “54-46 Was My Number.” The tune, a tale of Hibbert’s incarceration for Marijuana possession, won the group a new generation of fans when it was covered by Sublime.

The material the group performed for their crowd of Bostonians rang with familiarity, and the performance itself followed the age-old formula Toots has incorporated into almost every set he’s played in recent years. However, with its lack of freshness, any Toots and the Maytals show is certain to be packed full of showmanship and audience participation.

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