Review: UB40, Portsmouth Guildhall

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Club Scene with Sam Cherry

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As familiar laid-back beats and soaring saxophone fill the venue, both band and fans break into a gentle reggae sway.

There’s plenty of warmth for UB40 in a Guildhall packed more tightly than an early 80s job centre.

But then, the band who became a voice for unemployed Britain before moving into reggae-tinged pop have been entertaining us with originals and blues and soul covers for more than 30 years.

With their 2013 album Getting Over The Storm, the group have moved into reggae-tinged country.

As a live band, they’re in great shape but the latest offerings don’t exactly overwhelm and all the excitement is saved for earlier tracks – no surprise there really.

For many the real test is how Duncan Campbell – who took over from brother Ali in 2009 – fares.

He has the laid-back moves, the stance is familiar and his voice lends itself to early UB40 songs.

The room erupts to hits like Red Red Wine and Cherry Oh Baby.

It’s just a shame we’re offered little from UB40’s earlier, edgier, more radical era. Just a couple of tracks, including One in Ten, wave the flag for the band’s beginnings.

As a set it’s maybe a little too staid.

But as the crowd sways to those reggae beats (and you wish you’d brought some seasickness pills) many people seem pretty content.