The English Beat
With Umbrella Bed
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
March 21, 2013
Show Review by MNSKA show reporter Martha Rigby
Heading over to the Triple Rock last Thursday night (March 21), I highly anticipated a chance to hear the English Beat’s studio recorded songs brought to life, this being the first time I saw them live. In the week preceding the English Beat show, I watched one YouTube video of lead singer Dave Wakeling and his backing band, just to see what to expect. It was pretty horrible–Wakeling’s voice sounded unstable while the sound was just too echo-y–I’ll chalk it up to bad acoustics, after having witnessed a stellar performance from the English Beat at the Triple Rock. Wakeling was on point, his voice strong as ever. A pleasant surprise was Antonee First Class (vocals/toaster), just about the flyest dude I’ve seen in a long time. In addition to singing backup vocals he freestyled between songs about 80’s pop culture, for those who were around in that decade. He’s got some flow for sure.
Overall the band was just as sharp as on the studio recorded songs, just as tight, but most importantly, bursting with energy and passion that it was almost surprising this band is past its prime. The instrumental jamming on “Hands Off She’s Mine” was especially delightful. One thing the English Beat did well in the 80′s was writing songs with great opening riffs. “Save It For Later” comes to mind–that first bass note got an immediate cheer of recognition. The highlights for me were mostly the typical hits: “Save it for Later”, “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Hands Off She’s Mine,” “Tears of A Clown,” and “I’ll Take You There.” I should have realized earlier that they would save Mirror in the Bathroom for the encore. It was worth it; as Wakeling said when they came back on stage, “here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for.” It was fast and large and people went nuts.
It was great to see such a diverse crowd getting down. To me it looked it looked like a slightly older crowd than your typical Triple Rock show, but Wakeling at one point commented that we looked young! In between sets, I was chatting with a woman by the bar and she asked how old I was. “22?! When I was 22 I was going to English Beat shows! And I’m 57 now, I can’t wait to dance!” 2tone, a record label and genre emphasizing racial unity, brought us all together on Thursday night for a skanking good time!
Local 2-tone ska band (and Ska-POW! champions) Umbrella Bed opened for the show, and the crowd was pretty lukewarm towards them. That changed of course if you went up close to the stage and skanked with the UB fans. Right as I walked in, I overheard someone behind me say, “are they from Minneapolis? How long are they playing?” which is just a testament to the draw that the English Beat has outside of the explicitly ska scene in the Cities. Personally I thought Umbrella Bed was great, though they lacked some of their bouncy energy they had at Ska-POW! I suppose the crowd and the band mutually influence the energy they exude, so I can’t give them too hard of a time.
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