Monday, June 2, 2008

RUHtf: Concert preview - English Beat

(Dave Wakeling, me, and my friend Kevin)

The English are coming! The English are coming! The English Beat, that is. They're playing locally at The Coach House June 13 and House of Blues July 27.

To prepare you, here is a review I wrote of their recent performance at The Grove:

(Yes....this is my pass....though we weren't in the Alcoholics Anonymous section)

Having only three studio albums to their name, the English Beat (known as The Beat or The Beat UK overseas) did not leave much of a musical footprint in the record bins. However, their brand of Two-tone/Ska/English Reggae left a huge mark on 80’s radio and the legions of “Second wave” Ska bands that have been popping up since the early 90’s. Few have come close (see early No Doubt), but none have matched The English Beat’s brilliance due to excellent songcraft and pop sensibility, mixed in with pure Two-Tone/Ska sound. Each of their three albums could have been released as any other bands “Greatest Hits” collections.
Their last album as The English Beat was released 26 years ago. The front Beat members, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, found success as General Public, while the rest backed new soul crooner Roland Gift in the more popular yet shorter lived Fine Young Cannibals. These days, there are a couple “Beat”s on the touring circuit, though the US version could be considered the more authentic, as it has the lead vocalist, Dave Wakeling. The Ranking Roger toasting spot is filled in by a very capable Antonee First Class. The UK version has Ranking Roger with his son, Ranking Junior, and is rumored to be working on new material. If you go looking for “The English Beat” on the web, you’ll find a few different websites claiming to be the “official” and original Beat.
While there isn’t a large catalog to choose from, any setlist the Beat chooses from their three albums would make up a “Greatest Hits” show, since each album was deep with great songs. Unfortunately, this Beat doesn’t seem to be working any new material, as nothing new was introduced. At The Grove on Thursday, they played all the hits one would expect, including a couple General Public songs, and a few crowd/fan favorites. The band is very adept at recreating the sound and energy of the original songs. New guitarist Mike Randle (from Baby Lemonade/Love) was an excellent addition to the band’s sound, having Wakeling comment he was doing a great job his first night.
People are generally apprehensive about bands touring with no new material to support. The Beat, however, never really got their due the first time around. There’s nothing wrong with cashing in on notoriety, and the Beat were always known for their dance-happy songs. The audience was filled with people of all ages. One parent was seen lugging his two four year olds. On the way up to the venue, a 20 year old waitress, when told who I was going to see, said “Oh, my grandma likes them!” The Beat have always gotten by on their great songs. There were no movies named after a song of theirs, no iPod commercial (“Hands Off She’s Mine” maybe?), or other commercial product endorsements (why Now & Later never used “Save It For Later” we’ll never know…well, except for the rumored lurid subject matter). THE Beat was far from a one hit wonder…more like a three album wonder, and playing shows like this, they shall inspire and excite generations of music fans to come.

I've got a photo gallery of the show up here.

And this should bring you back to the day when MTV played videos:

No comments: