(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)
Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert is the self-proclaimed inventor of reggae. As the story goes, his 1968 recording of “Do the Reggay” is among the first songs to use the word and classify the style of music. But regardless of whether he is the genre’s rightful originator, he is certainly one of its oldest and most successful practitioners. At 66, Hibbert is still creating and performing to critical acclaim and large audiences. And on Sunday night at Brooklyn Bowl, Toots and the Maytalsplayed with relentless energy to a sold-out crowd.
The set opened with Hibbert’s widely known “Pressure Drop.” In the years since appearing on the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, the song continues to stay in the public consciousness, with second life from covers by the Clash and other artists. For this show, the band’s straight-up midtempo performance established a solid foundation to build on. And as the group sped up and extended such hits as “Funky Kingston” and a “Louie Louie” cover, the crowd willingly followed suit, dancing and yelling with each call and response.
Throughout the show Hibbert stayed attentive to the band and the audience. “I have a big voice,” he told all, supporting the claim for close to two hours, closing with the semi-autobiographical crowd-favorite “54-46 (That’s My Number).” At the “Give it to me” part, Hibbert improvised and asked the crowd to “Give it to me 13 times.” After approximately thirteen responses of “Hey,” he responded with genuine surprise, “No one has ever done that,” he said. But as long as Toots Hibbert continues to perform, this record is sure to be broken: If he gives it to us, we’ll give it to him.
Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com