[ATTENDED: October 14, 2016] The English Beat
I’ve been a fan of The English Beat (and other luminary ska bands) for years. When I saw that The English Beat with Dave Wakeling was touring the States (apparently non stop) I thought it would be fun to see them. They played the New Hope Winery once in a while, but I thought the tickets were a little pricey. So I was thrilled to see that they’d be opening for Squeeze–a great double bill!
The band played for a solid hour and covered most of the songs of their career. It was non-stop dancing and fun. Well, it would have been except that the Keswick Theater is seated, so most of us couldn’t really dance, but we could stand. And the aisles and were packed with people who didn’t want to sit down and just danced instead.
Dave Wakeling sounds great–older and deeper but recognizably him. And he still has that great smile and mischievous stage banter. He’s the only original member of the band, but it’s clearly his music. It’s obvious he loves playing and engaging with the audience.
Ranking Roger, the original MC employed a Jamaican style of delivery and added a wonderful tone to the songs. Roger tours England with his own version of The Beat. For our show Roger was replaced by King Schascha, a younger MC who did the Jamaican toasting like a natural (he was born in Trinidad). He was a great co-front man and, since Dave was a bit more stationary, it was King Schascha who did most of the interaction with the audience.
King Schascha is a performer in his own right and has more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen. In addition to doing some incredibly fast rapping (which I couldn’t even begin to understand–Wakeling noted that he was just going to say that), he also jumped around the stage–dancing and literally springing around–his super long dreadlocks flying everyone. He also hopped down from the stage and danced with the audience, and he even took someone’s phone from them and brought it on stage to personally videotape himself and some of the other guys before handing it back.
They played about a dozen songs. Even though they have written some classics, they were also known for some of their covers. And yes, they played a bunch of covers: two classic ska songs “Rough Rider,” and “Rude Boy Skank” (it was asked if there were any rude boys in the audience, although I don’t believe there were any). They played heir ska version of “The Tears of a Clown” and Andy William’s “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” (a super fun rendition of a song they’ve been playing for years).
They also played some General Public songs. Somehow, I didn’t realize that Dave and Ranking Roger were the founders of General Public. And they played two GP songs. “I’ll Take you There” which he noted has been used in two successful presidential campaigns. But a major highlight was their great version of “Tenderness” which got all of us dancing.
And of course, they played some of their own songs. The band has a new album coming out and they played “The Love You Give” (which could have been any of their old songs, it fit seamlessly). And they played some classics: A stellar version of “Save It for Later” a super dancey “Ranking Full Stop” and the song I’d been waiting for “Mirror in the Bathroom.”
I would have loved to hear “Twist & Crawl” or the tremendous “March of the Swivel Heads” (the closing sequence from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–although I gather they never play that).
But their set was a lot of fun and absolutely scratched my itch to hear some live ska.