As if the warm-up band - Portland-based Dan Reed Network - decided to celebrate the up-next performance of UB40, one of Reed's musicians bound on stage Saturday night at Park West complete with a tie-dyed guitar.
The British band UB40 has helped keep tie dye in style and has added new vigor to reggae that has, like tie-dye, enjoyed intermittent popularity for the past two decades.The eight-member band, backed by a brass section and chorus, brought its version of reggae out-of-doors for a crowd of thousands at ParkWest.
Although rooted in traditional Jamaican reggae rhythms, UB40's brand intersperses mainstream themes as well.
Consequently, the band was well received by a broadly based Utah audience, including tie-dyed and die-hard Rastafarians, polo-shirted yuppies and teenagers in conspicuously torn blue jeans.
First, however, the five-member Dan Reed Network warmed up the crowd. Reed provided a tightly strung live performance with some masterful synthesizer work and powerful guitar playing.
But the band's music was lyrically off the mark, relying on obligatory screams and hoots and tedious lyrics such as, "she's a tiger in a dress, she's taking on the bad boys, baby" from the group's song, "Tiger in a Dress."
All things considered, Dan Reed Network did a creditable job of injecting more energy into the already restless crowd anticipating UB40.
When night fell on the mountainside at ParkWest and UB40 came on stage, the dust literally rose from the ground as the audience gyrated to what it had been waiting for - reggae.
Not shying away from pomp and circumstance, UB40 appeared amidst a swirl of smoke, bright lights and a stunning blast from the band's brass section. The group's members lead immediately into perhaps their best know hit, "Red, Red Wine," which went to No. 34 on the Billboard charts in 1983.
UB40 reached back into its earlier repertoire of hits several times during the concert, playing "Cheerio Baby" and its version of the Sonny and Cher standby, "I Got You, Babe," which UB40 took to No. 28 in 1985.
Lead singer and guitarist Ali Campbell danced a short, close waltz with a member of the female chorus and then the two belted out a soulful rendition of "I Got You, Babe," a tune once banished to the easy-listening air waves.
The stage show went off with nary a hitch, save for a single audio foul up and obvious lighting snafus.
But earlier in the performance, the show was temporarily stalled when band members pleaded with the crowd to step away from the stage to prevent those in front from being crushed.
UB40 has never been as popular in the United States as in its British homeland, but given an enthusiastic demand by the ParkWest audience for an encore performance and a well-done and well-received concert effort in Utah, followed by others across the country, UB40 could enjoy a rising tide - perhaps a tie-dyed tide - of popularity in America.