Following their incredible performance at 3Arena earlier this month, UB40 featuring Ali Campbell have announced their Irish return with a show at RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin on Friday August 30th 2024. Subject to licence.

Tickets from €59.90 inclusive go on sale at 10am this Friday, April 26th via Ticketmaster.ie

Fuelled by the voice that powered UB40 to 70 million record sales and over fifty UK chart hits, Ali Campbell is again bringing some much-needed reggae cheer into the world as he takes the latest incarnation of his extraordinary band to the world’s biggest stages. Building on a legacy that dates back 45 years to his formative years in inner-city Birmingham, singer and guitarist Ali’s touring ensemble remains the most authentic realisation of UB40’s original aim of advancing reggae in all its guises.

‘I think I’ve got the best reggae band in the world, and you can quote me on that,’ he says. ‘They are all seasoned musicians, who have spent all their lives in professional bands, and I feel so confident with them. We can play in the UK, Africa or an island like Fiji, and people will be buzzing afterwards. The past few years have been tough for a lot of people. There’s a lot of darkness in the world. I’ve lost close friends long before their time. But life goes on, and this group seems to leave a good vibe wherever we play.’

For Ali, who began a new era when he left the band’s original line-up in 2008, there’s no shortage of material to sing live. A typical show will include classic reggae covers such as Cherry Oh Baby, Please Don’t Make Me Cry, Kingston Town and Red Red Wine – all from the hugely successful Labour Of Love series – plus more recent originals such as Unprecedented, from the 2021 album of the same name.

Many of the players in Ali’s nine-piece touring band have been with him for years, including bassist Colin McNeish, drummer Paul Slowly, trumpeter Colin Graham and keyboardist Michael Martin. The latter first shared a stage with Campbell in the 1980s. Back then, still in his teens, Michael was a member of Winston Rodney’s Burning Spear live band. A more recent addition is drummer and live master of ceremonies Frank Benbini, who also plays with Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

This current flurry of activity is part of a story that goes back to 1979, when UB40 began putting their own, roots-rocking slant on Jamaican reggae. Taking their name from the official form given to individuals claiming unemployment benefit in the UK, the multi-racial band played their first show at the Hare & Hounds pub in Kings Heath in February 1979. After reaching number four in the charts with their double A-sided debut single, King / Food For Thought, the band released the Signing Off album in 1980. They went on to top the UK singles chart on four occasions – with Red Red Wine in 1983, I Got You Babe (a duet between Ali and Pretenders singer and long-standing UB40 champion Chrissie Hynde) in 1985; (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You in 1993 and Baby Come Back with Pato Banton in 1994. Two of those hits, Red Red Wine and (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You, also topped the US charts. Paying homage to the songs that inspired them, UB40 went on to release three volumes of the Labour Of Love series.

Ali’s rich, honeyed vocals gave the band’s music a sweet, melodic sheen, but the songs written by the group themselves were often iron fists in velvet gloves – gritty snapshots of the 1980s. Food For Thought attempted to draw attention to famine in North Africa five years before Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? aimed to do likewise, contrasting Third World poverty with the conspicuous consumption of the Western world at Christmas. King, inspired by the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., looked at racism in America. One In Ten, a UK Top Ten single in 1981, was a harrowingly brutal account of a Britain blighted by chronic unemployment, teenage suicide, homeless refugees and lonely pensioners. ‘The saddest thing is that some of those songs are still so appropriate,’ says Ali. ‘We wrote King 44 years ago, but the song still says something about America today, and it’s the same with One In Ten in the UK.’

Having seen all touring halted when the pandemic hit in 2020 – the band were in the middle of the Real Labour Of Love tour at the time – UB40 featuring Ali Campbell are now fully up to speed again. With a line-up that also features saxophonist Adriano Rossetti-Bonell plus backing singers Cuttie Williams and Patrick Augustus, they are bringing their perfect balance of originals and classic covers to all corners of the planet.

‘We’re really blessed in that we get such a mixed audience at our shows,’ says Ali. ‘We still get the original fans, but we’ve also picked up a younger, festival crowd who are into grime and dance music. The influence of reggae on today’s music is huge. If you listen to grime, hip-hop, drill, jungle, or drum and bass, so much of it has come from dub and dancehall. Reggae music is a perfect antidote to these dark times. It’s music that unifies. You might not change anything by singing about it, but you can at least travel the world and try to bring people together.’




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