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The English Beat at the Twilight Concert Series on Thursday August 15th 2013

rough riders
















The English Beat’s performance at the Twilight Concert Series on the Santa Monica Pier was madness, the crowd got so rowdy that I saw some people, who had saved their front row spot hours ahead of the show, just give up and move away from the stage to watch the concert from afar, letting plenty of room for a few opportunists. Alcoholic beverages may have been forbidden on the pier, but it didn’t prevent some guys to get drunk and a fight almost started behind me while singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling and the other members of the band were preaching peace and love to the crowd.

I am not sure when I first heard the English Beat’s music, but one thing is sure, I knew lots of songs they played on Thursday night, without being fully aware of the band who played them. Memory is always strange, and many of their famous tunes such as ‘Save it for Later’ or ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ were stored and almost forgotten in some of my 80s memory neurons but were fully awaken by the band’s dynamic performance and infectious rhythms. Six on stage, fronted by talkative Dave Wakeling and hyperactive Anthonee First Class, the band didn’t rest a bit during their 12-song set, stretching their tunes with long jams, making people on the pier jump and bounce on the wood floor, and turning the videos I shot into a very shaky dance… at least everyone can get a good impression of what was going on.

The English Beat, simply called The Beat in England, dismembered in 1983, and Dave Wakeling formed General Public with Ranking Roger while Andy Cox and David Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals. After different band formations, The English Beat got through several revivals with Dave Wakeling fronting an American version of the band and Ranking Roger a British one. Anyway I got to see the US version of course, and I expected aging musicians taking the stage playing oldies but goodies, instead Wakeling looked like a tanned English rugbyman (he was wearing a sporty t-shirt sponsored by some celebrity online publication) who had spent too much time on Santa Monica beach! With a mic placed a little high for him, he was pulling his neck the whole time, was singing with a beat-up voice bot looked like the most laid back person on earth. Surrounded by young musicians, he seemed to have bought a new youth and couldn’t stop declaring his genuine love for the city (he currently resides in California), ‘30 years searching for something around the world, every time I come back to Santa Monica’ he said before singing ‘Tenderness’… if Santa Monica needed any publicity, the mayor should hire him.

The energy displayed by the dynamic multiracial sextet was contagious and their multi-influenced ska-reggae-rock, spiced up by what seemed to be long and meandrous improvisations, was working great on the large crowd. The interaction between Wakeling and Anthonee and their respective English and Jamaican accents were producing frenetic exchanges, injected by sax solos and Anthonee’s semi-rap-delivered fast tirades. The show sounded and looked like all-world-nations celebration, beside the strong reggae-world-music flavor, the young virtuoso keyboardist was Asian, Wakeling and Anthonee did some dance steps that looked like directly borrowed from South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Anthonee’s bouncing moves looked like he was shouting repetitive balls through a hoop as Ozomatli’s members do it all the time. Wakeling did a good imitation of a Latin liturgical incantation before an extended and tropical version of ‘I Confess’, and people were pushing even more, as I suspected some harsh ska dance was happening in the back. They nevertheless reserved a large part for nostalgia as they covered some oldies like Andy Williams’ ‘Can’t Get Used to Losing You’, and even though these covers had been adrenalized with reggae beats, I largely preferred when they played their own material: The English Beat’s songs sounded timeless whereas I didn’t really care for hearing another version of The Staple Singers’ ‘I’ll Take You There’. Nevertheless they were total crowd pleasers, people went crazy during ‘Tenderness’, rising a forest of arms, doing a handclapping madness, singing along during ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’. The band left after shaking tons of hands in the audience… all evening long their beats had shaken up the pier without even showing an ounce of tiredness, or a sign of slowing down. California’s air and Englishmen are definitively a good mix.

Rough Rider
Hands Off…She’s Mine
Twist and Crawl
I’ll Take You There (The Staple Singers cover)
I Confess
Click Click
Save It for Later
Can’t Get Used to Losing You
Never You Done That
Ranking Full Stop
Mirror in the Bathroom

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