“Greetings from London Town.”
With those spoken words from Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, the leader and co-founder of the band Incognito, I settled in to enjoy the fulfillment of a wish that was born over twenty years ago. Ever since I bought the band’s album Positivity without having heard a song from them, I’ve wanted to see them perform live. I’ve told the story a few times and also here on the blog, that album was where I fell in love with the voice of one Maysa Leak. While she doesn’t always tour with the band, or perform on all their albums, she is for most fans its most recognizable lead singer and I was fortunate that she also would be performing.
So it was with anticipation as I turned toward the stage as the house lights dimmed. The musicians took the stage, and after Bluey welcomed the audience, he noted that the group had been around for thirty-seven years. After noting their beginnings as an instrumental band, they tore into “Echoes Of Utopia,” a song from their most recent album In Search Of Better Days. Right off the bat, hands clapped, folks nodded their heads and patted their feet. And with that, the show got underway.
Maunick then introduced the singers, one by one, so that each could have the spotlight on a song. First was Chris Ballin, whom I had forgotten had sung with the band, as he came out to perform “Labour Of Love.” Then to my surprise, he introduced Debórah Bond, who came out to sing one of my favorite songs from the album Amplified Soul, called “I See The Sun.” The surprise was I did not know she was touring with Incognito; I had been introduced to Ms. Bond several years ago by way of her album Madam Palindrome. Both Ballin and Bond were excellent on their songs. Then out came Vanessa Haynes, who if you read liner notes has been around for quite a while with the group. Her spotlight song was a funky number called “Just Say Nothing,” also released on In Search Of Better Days. Finally, Bluey gave the crowd what they were waiting for: the appearance of Baltimore’s own Maysa Leak.
Leak took the lead on three successive songs: “Talkin’ Loud,” “Deep Waters,” and “Still A Friend Of Mine” (in duet with Ballin). All three are from that Positivity album, and if the last two hadn’t been performed, I would have asked for my money back! Ok, I’m joking. But by that point, I was singing along (well, attempting to sing anyway). Not to say I hadn’t enjoyed myself up to that point, but the appearance of Maysa and the sound of her voice just ramped things up ever so much higher. I was reminded yet again why I love her voice so much once she began to sing.
I was truly thrilled by the musicianship of the band, and each member was able to show off a bit after the playing of “Colibri,” a mostly instrumental track with Maysa’s scat vocals. Before the show ended, Maunick introduced each member of the band, and as he stated, it truly is an international band. Members were natives of Scotland, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, the U.K., Mauritius, as well as the U.S. He also estimated that he had stopped counting the number of people he has worked with under the name Incognito at 1,500; indeed if you have ever read the credits on any of their albums, you will see different names on just about all the releases they have done.
Needless to say, I left the show wanting more; when it ended I looked at my watch and saw that they had played for almost two hours non-stop. Even after the encore, a cover of Ronnie Laws’ “Always There,” I felt they could have played longer. I don’t think any of us were ready to leave; some of the audience members shouted songs they wanted to have heard (including one I’ll refer to later in the post).
A few words about the venue: Rams Head On Stage is a very cozy spot to watch a concert. The hall seats less than 500 people, so I was glad to get my ticket early, as the show eventually sold out. The seating is great, and no one feels like the stage is too far away. This was my first time there, and I plan to go back to catch more performances. It is located in Annapolis, Maryland, in the historic downtown section. There is a bar/restaurant next to it called Rams Head Tavern, which is where I had dinner prior to the show. The tickets were reasonably priced, and with their “performance package, you get discounted dinner and parking, a free beer after the show and an escort to your seat prior to the beginning of the show. Not a bad deal at all.
So if you were asking: yes, I enjoyed the show. So much so, I’ve posted a YouTube playlist of the songs played at the show. I hope you can hear them, if you so choose to listen.
If you can’t, here is the set list (albums listed in italics):
“Echoes Of Utopia” from In Search Of Better Days
“Labour Of Love” from Beneath The Surface
“I See The Sun” from Amplified Soul
“Just Say Nothing” from In Search Of Better Days
“Talkin’ Loud” from Positivity
“Deep Waters” from Positivity
“Still A Friend Of Mine” from Positivity
“Colibri” from Tribes, Vibes & Scribes
“As Long As It’s You” from Eleven
“Everyday Grind” from In Search Of Better Days
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” from Tribes, Vibes & Scribes
“Everyday” from 100° And Rising
“Always There” from Inside Life
“Spellbound And Speechless” from 100° And Rising (requested from the audience, but was not played during the show)