Written by Jen Cheshire, Journalist
Having been a longtime fan of UB40 but never seeing them live, you can imagine how excited I was to find out they were stopping in Denver on their US tour. To make it even better the lineup included Raging Fyah, one of my favorite bands, and Matisyahu and they would also be performing at the Levitt Pavilion, Denver’s newest venue.
Tickets bought, I set out for the venue with plenty of time to catch Raging Fyah, who were opening, but that was not to be. As the venue was very new and had only opened the day before, my GPS couldn’t find it. I don’t know Denver well enough to know when it sends me to the wrong place and even with the address plugged in it was sending me around and around the area but not to the venue. When I eventually found it I then had to deal with the parking issue. With the venue capacity being 7,500 for a paid event, it seemed strange that the parking lot was full by 5 pm, an hour after it opened, when the venue wasn’t even half full, so arriving late I had to park on the street with a lengthy walk, along with many others. There was a line to get in, even though it was an hour after the event started but the staff moved us through quickly and were very and upbeat despite having to deal with complaints about the parking.
To my disappointment, I had missed the performance by Raging Fyah but from the comments I heard from the people I spoke with, they killed it, exhilarating their existing fans and gaining new ones with songs from their Grammy nominated album ‘Everlasting’.
I arrived halfway through Matisyahu’s set and never having seen him live, was not sure what to expect. The only way I can describe his performance is to say it was like witnessing a jam session, with his vocals playing a part in the overall effect. This was well received by the die-hard Matisyahu fans although I was told by a longtime fan that he wished he had played some of his old songs.
The excitement was building for the performance of UB40 with a crowd of dedicated fans of all ages ranging from small children to retirees. Introduced and hyped up by backup singer Matt Hoy, the band, aptly named ‘The Real Deal’ which included Mickey Virtue, came onstage and played while the noise rose until the appearance of Ali Campbell and Astro and then it went crazy. UB40 didn’t disappoint fans old or new as they brought out old-time favorites such as ‘Here I Am’, ‘Rat In The Kitchen’ Falling In Love With You’, ‘Kingston Town’ and more, mixed in with a couple of tracks from their latest album ‘Silhouette’, a cover of the classic song ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Fijian Sunset’.
For me, Ali has always been the voice and face of UB40 and that opinion hasn’t changed. The energy and charisma are still there after all these years. What I found entertaining was the unending energy of Astro. With his clever lyrics and his sensual dancing, all over the stage, he was definitely a favorite with the ladies.
The band really impressed me, they were very tight and cohesive, combining the sultry sax and trumpet, with the keyboards, bass, and guitar and there were even some subtle dance moves going on in the background.
After about an hour on stage, Ali thanked the crowd for coming out and they all left the stage and the stage crew started to shut off the instruments. The crowd was a little unsettled as they hadn’t played ‘Red, Red Wine’, the hit that made them famous worldwide. A brave soul behind me started to sing it, hoping people would join in and bring the band back on stage but unfortunately it didn’t catch on. After about 10 minutes, which I thought was just a little too long and could have caused some people to leave, the drummer of the band came back onstage and did an amazing drum solo followed by the return of the rest of the band. Ali Astro and Mickey then came on and commenced with old favorite ‘Food For Thought’ followed by ‘Bring Me Your Cup’ and ending with…..’Red, Red Wine’.
It was a great show and I’m still a fan.
The Levitt Pavilion is a beautiful outdoor venue and I’m sure the parking and other minor glitches will be ironed out soon.
Walking back to my vehicle I came across, possibly the youngest fan there, 3-month-old Austin, with his parents. Austin managed to stay awake for Raging Fyah, Matisyahu and 2 songs from UB40. His dad said he will be going to many more shows.