Introduced by a reggae rendition of the "Hallelujah" chorus, Peter Tosh strode on stage at DAR Constitution Hall with quiet, regal aplomb.
A founding member of the original Wailers, Tosh has long sought to duplicate the extraordinary international success his friend and one-time bandmate, the late Robert Nesta Marley, achieved.
During last night's set, Tosh addressed the audience as reggae's reigning monarch, and dressed the part: He wore white, flowing robes, a tall fez-like headpiece and mean-looking shades--a cross between a tribal chieftain and Malcolm X. The Word, Sound and Power band provided solid, surging support as Tosh belted selections from his excellent new LP, "Mama Africa," along with older tunes such as "African" and "Don't Look Back," with deserved braggadocio.
At times he and his backing musicians did lapse into bombast. The lead guitar lines were often glib and pointless, and the synthesizer work as slick and silly as any stadium rock band's. Toward the end of the show Tosh stopped to make an irate speech complaining about the less-than-capacity crowd.
He came back in the end, though, with a crushing version of Chuck Berry's classic "Johnny Be Good" and a triumphal "Stand Up for Your Rights."