There are times when Irish people's affinity with reggae is just downright embarrassing. People like Sinead O'Connor, a woman who now speaks in a bizarre Glenageary/Jamaica patois and seems to forget that she grew up nearer to Kingstown than Kingston, are attracted to certain parts of Rastafarianism -- while conveniently ignoring other aspects of the creed.
For example, when it comes to matters such as the very right of homosexuals to exist or women to be on an equal social footing with men, the Rastas are somewhere to the right of the Taliban but, it has to be said, when it comes to nifty tunes the dreadlocked lads beat those bearded, Stone-Age savages hands down.
Over the years Irish audiences were drip-fed late-night gigs, usually at the TV Club on Harcourt Street, and invariably involving second-division UK reggae acts. I can recall many's the night wondering just why the hell I was standing there listening to the likes of The Cimarons, Black Slate and Matumbi going through the reggae-by- numbers book and blathering on about Jah for what seemed like an eternity. But then you'd get an actual Jamaican act along to see what the real deal was like.
In fairness, they usually weren't much better, leaning towards the hucksterish end of the soul revue style of showmanship. The likes of I-Roy, U-Roy (we all Roy together-o) and several other toasters seemed to instinctively grasp the fact that they had an audience of gullible whiteys in front of them and were only too eager to play up to the image of reggae wildmen, take the money, smoke the (bad) local dope and swiftly move on.
In fairness, you could hardly blame them pocketing over-the-odds fees -- given the dodgy and dangerous nature of the business they'd grown up with in Jamaica -- but we were playing host to the runts of the litter, Bob Marley in Dalymount aside of course. So when you get the opportunity to see one of the greats of the genre it shouldn't be missed.
Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert may have only barely scraped the UK Top 50 four decades ago with the classic Monkey Man but he and the Maytals remain a stunning live outfit. Four years ago on one of the hottest nights of the year, they played one of the best gigs of the decade in a sweltering Vicar Street.
Although credited with being the first man to use the term reggae in a song title -- on the Maytals' 1968 single Do the Reggay -- Toots' repertoire leans more heavily towards a ska sound and when you've got a superb live band, a crammed venue and an audience willing to shed pounds of sweat there can be few better musical experiences. Pressure Drop, 54-46 and the aforementioned Monkey Man were greeted with a response bordering on hysteria and certainly banished all the memories of inferior acts foisted on Irish audiences during the post-punk era.
Not even Sinead O'Connor blathering on about Jah and 'One Love' can dispel the power of this powerful and truly joyous music.
Toots and the Maytals play TriPod tomorrow