A clever marketing strategy hit you as soon as you entered London’s o2 to see Birmingham’s ‘finest’ UB40 — Ali Campbell, without whom the group are touring, is launching his own tour. Entitled “The True Voice Of UB40”, his tour promises all the hits. The attack seemed scathing, especially given that Campbell left of his own choice only to be replaced by older brother Duncan. With fans undettered by the line-up change, the o2 was brimming.
Eddy “Electric Avenue” Grant tried his hardest to warm the arena up, but on the whole his efforts fell flat. Barely capturing the audiences attention, only the chorus of the irrepressible “I Don’t Wanna Dance” prompted shoulder movement. With a lacklustre opening, UB40 had to fight for attetion as they eventually took to the stage at 9pm. Barely noticeable on the large stage, new lead singer Duncan Campbell looked uncomfortably out-of-place. Vocally not dissimilar to his charismatic younger brother Ali, Duncan proved to be better at performing an embarrassing karaoke uncle take on the UB40 catalogue than take on the full front man duties of leading the band. The group surrounded him, clearly aware of his inability, to ensure Duncan stuck to singing as well as being given plenty of support for key lines, with the other Campbell, Robin, holding the reigns of audience communication.
Next time the same group will be queuing for Ali come May.
The similarity of beat meddled with consequential vocals meant that big hits including “One In Ten” merely by-passed the swaying audience. Though, to a degree, there was success on the level of movement (absent from Eddy Grant’s earlier set), the band lacked engagement with their hungry fans.
As the set grew and the hits kept coming, Duncan was removed from centre stage. Though still the lead vocalist, his more competent musician friends ensured that all was not lost. With the stage presence slowly building, proceedings climaxed with “Red Red Wine”. Having been totally missable for an entire set, UB40 finally got into gear and showed their worth. It was all too late as their fanbase streamed through to the door before their encore. Passing up the chance to see another lacklustre rendition of a classic hit, there is little doubt that next time round the same group of fans will be queuing for Ali come May.