UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro at the 02 Arena
One of two touring versions of UB40 – the one featuring founding member and lead vocalist Ali Campbell and near-founding member, vocalist/toaster Astro – stopped off in London on Saturday 6th April in support of their latest album, 2018’s A Real Labour of Love, and also to celebrate 40 years since the original ensemble was formed.
Following energetic support from hard-dancing eight-piece collective Gentleman’s Dub Club, the starring duo came out on stage at the same time as their large backing band, Ali dressed in black, Astro dressed in white.
As A Real Labour of Love was UB40’s highest-charting album since 1993’s Promises & Lies, one might have expected the set to be heavily stacked in its favour, but it was hits from the 1980s which made up the first half of the show: If It Happens Again, King, Food for Thought, Wear You to the Ball and One in Ten are all great songs and the lead vocalist sounded in fine voice.
Feel-good anthems Groovin’ and The Way You Do the Things You Do were standout moments, and the crowd seemed to embrace Cherry Oh Baby with even more gusto than what had come before. The sublime Bring Me Your Cup was the first non-80s track of the evening and both singers put in solid performances.
Three songs from A Real Labour of Love were played, as was another more recent number, Fijian Sunset, from 2014 – (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You and Red Red Wine were saved until the encore.
Both singers only really spoke when introducing certain songs, or when Campbell said rather provocatively ahead of I’ll Be There: “This is the last tune I wrote with the ‘dark side'” – his name for the “other” UB40, which features two of his brothers and five original members, and which he left in 2008. This statement was met with some boos.
As a longtime UB40 fan, this writer can’t help but feel that Campbell – amazing vocalist that he is – was better when he had his brother Robin beside him singing harmonies and the rest of the group behind him, each doing their thing to contribute to that wonderful sound which helped make them one of the world’s top reggae acts.
That said, his voice is preferable to that of his brother Duncan, who replaced him in UB40, and it was nice to hear the frontman perform these great songs once again.
Photo: Eva Rinaldi
For further information and future events visit UB40’s website here.
Watch the video for Purple Rain here: