Almost 50 years on from his earliest historic recordings, Toots Hibbert and the Maytals have the reggae thing down to a massively fun science. And in spite of his age (about 67, although Hibbert doesn't tell), the first man to use the term reggae in a song still brings it live like a man half his age. In fact, Hibbert and his band seemed to have just as much fun as the House of Blues crowd. There wasn't a person in the audience or onstage who didn't offer beaming smiles throughout most of the show. Yes, reggae is the ultimate feel-good music. Hibbert wasted no time going to the hits, belting out "Pressure Drop" and "Time Tough" before the crowd had time to settle in. But by the time Hibbert accelerated the final verses of "Time Tough" into a double-time crescendo, the crowd was completely into it. The rest of the night, Hibbert wasted little time with stage banter, moving instead quickly from one hit after another. By the time he picked up his acoustic guitar and began to lay down a bad reggae voodoo on the intro to "Funky Kingston," even the stragglers got out of their seats and started shakin' their butts. Another tempo shift at the end of the song brought us all up to date on just how funky "Funky Kingston" is these days.
Hibbert saved his famous covers of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Louie, Louie" for the stretch run, following them in the buildup with a manic version of "Monkey Man" that electrified the joint and spurred some front-row hipsters to fire up a bowl, which brought security over in double-time.
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By the time Hibbert had come to the final encore, his signature prison song "54-46 Was My Number," he was an hour and half into one of the finest shows we've witnessed. Ever. Pretty religious for a Sunday night in downtown Houston.