Gregory Isaacs Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON March 10

It had been years since reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs last played Toronto, and the main question for the full house was which Gregory Isaacs was going to show up? The only other time I’d ever seen the man in concert was in Negril, and he was so fucked up on cocaine that he had to be carried to the stage by two men. Even then his glassy-eyed charisma made for a half-decent show. Some 20-plus years later — representing only half of his recording career — there was every reason to fear that his continued drug use would result in a disappointing show. Fortunately, thanks the promoters’ efforts, the evening was a tight and immensely satisfying experience. Looking fitter and sounding better than he has in years, Isaacs had none of the phlegm-y slur that has so characterised recent releases. He may not have had the same power as years past, but he was damn close, and once the sound engineer figured out how to balance his voice in the mix, it was smooth sailing. He even went into his higher register several times. I’d left that part of his part of his range for dead, but apparently there’s been a resurrection. Isaacs has had so many huge hits that the set was like a Rolling Stones show: classic after classic, without a single letdown in energy throughout the set. The Live Wyya band were also a huge asset. Battle of the bands champions in Jamaica, these were superb musicians who brought new life to old tunes. This show was inspiring: a multiracial crowd ranging from teenaged to grandmotherly packed the house on a Monday night and sang all the hits in unison.