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  • Writer's pictureTanya Louise

Review: UB40 feat. Ali, Astro & Mickey - Forest Live Forest Pines Nottinghamshire


The sounds of UB40 were a massive part of my youth.

Of course we all know Red Red Wine but that is just one of over 50 singles spanning an astonishing 40 years in the business.

40 years! It doesn't seem five minutes since my friend and I binge watched their videos. As kids we studied that kiss in 'Cherrie oh Baby', then there was that summer we got our hands on the film of a live concert. We watched it on repeat, we sang, we danced, we pressed our faces up to the tv screen to see if we could see through their white trousers.

I had a real love affair with UB40 up until the Promises & Lies album, which I played to death but then lost track of them.  I don't know why, do all good things come to an end? It seems the relationship between the Campbell brothers did. The band's line up was stable for nearly 29 years until frontman Ali Campbell left the band, followed shortly after by keyboardist Mickey Virtue.  Astro remained with the band until 2013 when he left to join Campbell and Virtue in a new version of UB40, the one which I was lucky enough to see at this years ForestLive event at Sherwood Pines in Nottinghamshire.

The sun was shining on Sunday and made the location, transformed into a fantastic concert arena, absolutely perfect for an outdoor concert.  Now in its eighteenth season, Forest Live takes place at seven fantastic forest locations. The unique gigs are well known for their eclectic range of international artists, amazing atmosphere and stunning locations, so could this version of UB40 live up to that concert on video that I watched all those years ago?

I've seen the original line up live twice over the years. The other version with Robin Campbell saw Ali replaced by another brother, Duncan. Now as musicians they all must clearly love performing, but to me, the sound of UB40 is Ali Campbell and Astro, without them it's never going to sound the same.

Sharing a beer with some fans before the gig, who had travelled from London to be there, they told of how even they had gone to a gig without realising there was no Ali. As they put it, brother Duncan doesn't have the same sound, "his diction is too good, he doesn't clip the words like Ali".  They also told of a mate who took his girlfriend to see them in concert without realising until they got to the city then he spent the day worrying how to break the news to her.  For these fans it was to be their first time seeing this version, and they admitted they were worried whether the lads could pull it off.

It was needless anticipation. As soon as the band arrived on stage to the sounds of 'Here I Am (Come And Take Me)', that unmistakable sound was back sounding as fresh as it did all those years ago.  The differences?  OK, not much.  Ali was never the great talker between songs, the task going to brother, Robin.  The baton now passed to Astro, which is fine, he has the patter and personality to hold the audience. They don't move around so much but then when you think about it Ali is the baby of the group at 59! 59? how did that happen? Astro was celebrating his birthday with us, his 61st!! 

Throughout the evening they performed some of the old numbers, tracks from their new album and some of their personal favourites.  Hit followed hit, memory after memory "Wear You to the Ball Tonight', 'Rat in Mi Kitchen', 'Homely Girl', 'Falling in Love with You', 'Kingston Town', 'Many Rivers to Cross','Food for Thought, 'Sillouhette.  There was a lengthy wait for an encore but of course they came back for another three tracks, finishing the evening with Red Red Wine as the sun set on a crowd of other likeminded people, who also reassuringly knew the rap* (which sinningly was removed from the radio edit) word for word.  *the correct term is toasting

Was anything missing?  Ok, maybe Norman. We like Norman, but the lads gave the fans exactly what they wanted.  A fantastic evening with unmistakable sound of UB40.

Love T xx

*Disclaimer - My tickets were complimentary but my views are my own.

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