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Covering the Hits

UB40 play Bend—covering all their hits

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Ali Campbell, Mickey Virtue and Astro are hardly the only musicians to have had to try to continue a music career while trying to lay claim to a famous band name.

They currently tour and record under the name UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Mickey & Astro – a move necessitated by the presence of another version of UB40 that also includes several members of the long-running British reggae-pop band.

It's a similar situation to one that occurred several years ago when Queensryche jettisoned its longtime lead singer Geoff Tate and saw the vocalist start up his own version of the band and begin touring using the Queensryche name. A lawsuit was filed and the two sides eventually settled, with Tate agreeing to give up his claim to the Queensryche name. Great White has faced a similar scenario, as do a number of 1960s acts that have more than one version of the band on tour.

The question over which unit should have the rights to the UB40 name is following a similar path, with a lawsuit pending to answer the question of ownership of the band name.

Regardless of how the cards eventually fall, to vocalist/trumpeter Astro there's no disputing his band is the "real" UB40.

He has some facts on his side, beginning with personnel. Campbell, who left UB40 in 2008, was the group's singer and main songwriter, and it's his voice that's heard on such chart-topping hits as "Red Red Wine" and "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," as well as some 45-plus other charting singles in the United Kingdom. (The list is far shorter in the states, but the band also gained considerable popularity here).

As the other main vocalist (his toasting raps complement Campbell's singing) and a significant contributor to the band's lyrics, Astro (real name Terence Wilson) has long been one of UB40's other most recognizable members, while keyboardist Virtue has long been viewed as another cornerstone of the original UB40.

Still, the other UB40 has five original members – bassist Earl Falconer, drummer Jimmy Brown, percussionist Norman Hassan, sax player Brian Travers and guitarist (and Campbell's brother), Robin Campbell. The new lead singer is another Campbell brother, Duncan, which has not gone over well with Ali Campbell.

Concert numbers also have swung decidedly in favor of UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Mickey & Astro. This version of the group has been filling arenas in the U.K. and playing large venues in other countries—including a show in Bend at the Athletic Club next Tuesday.

Astro said the other UB40 has been touring mostly in England, where its shows are in much smaller venues – an assertion that is partially supported by that group's current itinerary, which includes a mix of festival, arena and theater-level dates in England, Australia and Europe.

"I think the fans are making it quite clear who they want to go see," Astro said. "And a lot of these people want to see the original artists, the original singers of the songs.

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"To be frank, I think they're not the band that we used to be anyway and I think they're doing the legacy a disservice, and we're trying to preserve that by giving people exactly what they want," he said.

That last statement points to another argument Astro makes in favor of UB40. And he has some first-hand perspective on the music because he remained in the "other" UB40 until 2013, when he joined forces with Ali Campbell and Virtue to start their version of the group.

Astro said he stayed in the other group out of loyalty and because he, Travers, Brown and Hassan in the wake of the split with Ali Campbell, had gotten into serious financial troubles—they were declared bankrupt in 2011—and Astro wanted to help everyone get back on solid footing.

But music eventually prompted Astro's departure – in particular, the group's 2013 album, "Getting Over the Storm," which he felt awkwardly mixed reggae and country music.

"I couldn't see myself standing on stage promoting a country album," he said.

He has no such problems taking the stage with Ali Campbell, Virtue or the other eight musicians who make up the touring lineup of his current band.


"We sound fantastic. That's the only way I can put it," Astro said. "It's great. Everybody on the stage are accomplished musicians in their own right, and the beautiful thing about being with these guys is there are no egos to contend with. Everybody just knows their thing. And we just get up there and we enjoy ourselves. We're just having so much fun now. It's a pleasure to walk on stage everyday."

As for the show itself, Astro said it will span the group's career – right up to "Silhouette," the 2014 studio album that was released as an Ali Campbell CD, with Virtue and Astro as special guests.

"We're going to try to cram as many of our classic hits in as possible in a two-hour show," he said. "We do have a current album out at the moment named 'Silhouette.'  So we will be including a couple of tracks from that. And then on top of that, then there will be some of our own personal favorites, which I'm pretty sure are going to be other peoples' favorites as well. There's going to be something for everybody."

UB40

Tues., July 11. Doors 5:30pm; Show 7pm

Athletic Club of Bend

61615 Athletic Club Dr., Bend


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