UB40 @ l’Olympia – 22nd September 2019

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UB40 at l”Olympia in Montreal

For as long as I have been alive, there has been UB40 – for the same amount of years, even. Their best-known track, “Red Red Wine” has seemingly been played at every event I have ever attended along the way, too.

As a child growing up in London, England – UB40 were everywhere. I have a very distinct memory of my mother banging on the walls where our neighbours were playing UB40 at deafening levels, whilst yelling “Not bloody UB40 again”. Not because she didn’t like the group – on the contrary. Just that the neighbours would blast it day in, day out. It’s funny what the brain retains. 

With a new record to promote, one they are very proud of, according to their singer, Duncan Campbell, UB40 are touring once again. Judging by the new tracks they performed, it would seem the new album is a cracker. I’ll have to find time to sit down and give a proper listening to.

With the near-capacity crowd thoroughly warmed up by a highly energetic DJ set from Brummie disk-jockey DJ Gold Dubs, who span a slew of older reggae tracks ripped right out of my childhood soundtrack, UB40 arrived to a rapturous welcome.

The artists themselves have surely aged but their tunes and knack for performing them certainly have not waned. Sounding spot on, UB40 pumped out the classics as well as the modern era of the group, bringing us all back to a time when reggae fuelled the British airwaves.

Most of the group are original members, with the major change being Duncan Campbell singing. He is the brother of original vocalist Ali Campbell, who left in 2008. You wouldn’t know the difference if you didn’t know, though. 

UB40 were once the pinnacle of the top 40 charts and to see them in such an intimate setting was enchanting. A delight and dare I say privilege. 

Like so many bands, UB40 will forever be known for a monster hit song, but the band has so, so much more to offer. “Red Red Wine” is known the globe over, but I suggest people delve into the rest of the group’s discography, too.

Review & photos – Kieron Yates

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