The English Beat – March 29th, 2011

  • Amy Meyer posted
  • Reviews

The English Beat

Live (March 29th, 2011) - Space - Evanstan, IL

The soft glow emitting from the spaceship shaped ceiling lights reflected off the many martini and wine glasses, along with the bedazzled table cloth lining the merch table. The drapery backing the one foot high stage was lit in pink and purple, and the feel of the room was more that of a trendy night club then a concert venue hosting a legendary ska band. I felt almost out of my realm, a feeling that solemnly hits me at a show, but tonight I was outnumber by yuppies and middle-aged mom and dad couples dressed to the nines in high heels and sweaters. Fear not though, “Jet Boy Jet Girl” by the Damned is playing on the sound system, and despite their snotty look, everyone is here looking to let loose and relive their 80’s two-tone days with Dave Wakeling and the English Beat. 

The English Beat reign supreme in early two-tone ska, releasing their first studio album in 1980. Although lead vocalist and guitarist, Dave Wakeling, is the only originally member touring in the band, he is backed up by a solid group of musicians on tour. Their songs are a mixture of soul, reggae, pop, and punk, but more importantly dance along tunes. The show this evening is catered to an older, slightly more sophisticated crowd, where the youngest crowd members appear to have been dragged along by mom and dad. 
The band took the stage at 8:30 to a nearly full room, and immediately things started to loosen up. People were swaying along, bopping their heads and even skanking a little. Only some concertgoers were singing along to a majority of the songs, but the whole crowd was digging the music. By the third song, “HandsOff… She’s Mine,” people had their hands in the air and the front of the venue had turned into a dance party. 

Wakeling may have been the oldest guy on stage, but he was on par with his younger band mates and sounded fantastic. Wakeling sang alongside Antonee, the energetic, fun to watch toaster of the band. They played a cover of “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers that led into the single, “I Confess.” At this point, it was moms gone wild on a Tuesday night as the crowd reacted with loud singing and explosive dance moves to Wakelings explanation to “get jiggy with it!” I couldn’t decide which was more enjoyable, the band or the crowd, as the woman in front of me busted out the Elaine dance moves and the guy behind me cracked jokes, asking me if I was even alive in the 80’s. 
The Beat played a varied set with slow, get out your Rasta hat songs, and then would speed it back up with heavier, punk influenced songs; there were even whistling solos. Wakeling would stop to talk to the crowd, but not enough to slow down the set; just cheerful, witty, fun comments to add to the appeal of the bands’ live show. Near the end of the set during “Tenderness,” a female intruder took the stage to show off her dance moves. Antonee joked that she had waited thirty years to dance with Dave Wakeling and the English Beat, and encouraged her to pull a friend on stage while they sang about two-tone ladies. 
After two hours of dancing, reminiscing about the 80’s, and laughing at the bands’ commentary, it was time to get home and pay the babysitter. Wakeling looks good, the band sounds great, and the crowd ranging from mid-20’s to upper-40’s (with a few young stragglers accompanying their parents) left behind their empty martini and craft beer glasses looking like this was the most fun they’ve had all year. 30 years later, the Beat is still spreading their positive vibes and bringing the masses together to groove.