Ipswich: Shake all you’ve got with Maxi Priest at the Regent

Maxi Priest, at the Ipswich Regent on March 23

Maxi Priest, at the Ipswich Regent on March 23 - Credit: Archant

Maxi Priest and I are bonding over pants; having our name written in them in felt tip as children to be precise.

“They bring all kinds of strange stuff as gifts; memorabilia, stuff you’d probably forgotten about. They bring all kinds of dolls of myself, I’ve had five or six of those; underwear with your name written all over it,” he laughs as we talk about his his enthusiastic Japanese fans.

“This is stuff they’ve made or got made, but it’s an appreciation that you’ve just got to go WOW. Growing up in England I guess there’s not too many people would think like that.”

Priest, who’s at The Ipswich Regent tomorrow, has just got back to England after some video shoots and shows in Jamaica, America and the Caribbean.

“It’s wonderful outside isn’t it? Nice hailstones, beautiful grey skies, cold,” he laughs.

Gaining worldwide recognition with Some Guys Have All The Luck and his cover of Cat Stevens’ Wild World, he’s followed in the footsteps of heroes like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and The Maytals and Dennis Brown, helping spread the reggae far and wide.

Not that it’s always been easy. He’s worked hard for his success.

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“I would say so,” he laughs.

““There’s an old saying, ‘the good you do follows you’ and that’s what I’ve tried to bring, whatever it is I had, in an open-mind kind of way; not for it to be offensive to anybody. I think my records have kind of built that road. My name... it’s not attached to a lot of negativity.

“All of those things are part and parcel of, I guess, why we were allowed to play in a few places where I guess (other) people weren’t able.”

He’s one of only two British reggae acts to have an American Billboard number one courtesy of 1990’s Close to You in 1990.

“So they say, I’ve never researched it,” Priest laughs. “It’s fabulous. We want to keep knocking at the door for England as well.”

Set the Night to Music in 1991, a duet with Roberta Flack, was a hit in America. So was That Girl, his duet with Shaggy in 1996. He and Paul Robinson produced Philip Levi’s Mi God Mi King, which made history by becoming the first British reggae production to reach number one on the Jamaican charts; a feat unequalled to this day.

Raised in South London, he learned to sing in church; encouraged my his Pentecostal missionary mother.

“Growing up with RnB, pop and reggae in England, listening to a lot of Beatles, Motown, Sting, grassroots, gospel... all them have really allowed me to develop whatever style it is I sing. Back in the 1980s people somewhat had to pigeonhole stuff, audiences nowadays are a lot more rounded.

“I just look at myself as an artist, with an art that I don’t really like to limit; that’s one thing I’ve always been fighting for. I couldn’t see why it was that I had to be pigeonholed.”

His latest album, The Maximum Collection, including all the hits and some personal favorites, is dedicated to his mother, father and former managers Erskine Thompson and Zola Burse.

“Zola was my tour manager was also tour manager for people like Marvin Gaye, the Commodores people like that. Oh man, he used to tell me stories about Gaye in his room and calling him at one, two in the morning telling him there was little green men in the corner of the room and stuff like that and he wanted to change rooms; stories after stories.”

Priest can’t wait to visit Ipswich.

“I haven’t been there for donkey’s years. Oh my god, (audiences can expect) one massive party. A place and a time to let your hair down, shake all you’ve got and sing along with some stuff you know and enjoy some stuff you may not know.

“Coming to a Maxi Priest show is really all about having a party. I’ve had a great life, do you know what I’m saying. I wish I could achieve a lot more but I couldn’t complain with whatever success I’ve had, I’ve had a great innings - not that I’m out yet.”