“Are you ready? Are you really, really, really ready?” The English Beat front man and voice of the band, Dave Wakeling, is one of those music artists that is completely tuned into his audience, particularly in an intimate venue such as The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, California, where he performed last night. The part seated, part standing 360-capacity venue was packed and from the moment the band stepped onto the stage, the majority was on the dance floor moving to the very unique blending of 2 tone ska/punk/new wave/reggae hits from the band known simply as The Beat in their home of the UK, though also on offer were as some tunes from General Public, the subsequent musical efforts by Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger following the original break-up of The Beat (Ranking Roger currently performs in the UK version of the band back in England). The band dispensed with having an opening band on the bill, and instead performed two full sets of their own on either side of a short intermission. It was a true live music experience that made great use of the excellent sound system and acoustics of the charming venue as they played song after song for the energetic crowd.
- Dave Wakeling (vocals, guitar)
- Rhythmm Epkins (drums, backing vocals)
- Antonee First Class (toaster)
- Matt Morrish (sax, backing vocals)
- Kevin Lum (keyboards, backing vocals)
- Roger Bueno (bass guitar, backing vocals)
I had seen The English Beat perform about a year ago at the Dixon May Fair, and as wonderful as it was, I much prefer the show last night with the indoor and much smaller, general admission-style venue to the fully seated outdoor affair last year. It was awesome to get much closer to the action last night, with an open floor in front of the fairly low to the ground stage, which gave the many fans in attendance a chance to better connect with the band. In fact, the show closed out with Dave Wakeling and the other members in the current incarnation of the band walking the edge of the stage and shaking hands with those who turned out to hear the timeless songs from 80s icon Dave Wakeling and his band.
As mentioned in my review last year, I can say that I’ve been a huge fan of The English Beat since childhood, and of course the related work by General Public and Ranking Roger. They put out an amazing catalog of work and really inspired and influenced a lot of great bands that followed.
I would also recommend checking out Dave Wakeling’s biography on the official website, which can be found here, to learn a bit more about him and his journey in music… Excerpt:
Hailing from working-class Birmingham, England, Dave and The English Beat entered the music scene in the 1979. When The English Beat rushed on to the music scene in 1979, it was a time of social, political and musical upheaval. Into this storm came they came, trying to calm the waters with their simple message of love and unity set to a great dance Beat.
The six member band consisted of singer/songwriter Dave Wakeling (vocals & guitar), Andy Cox (guitar), David Steele (bass), Everett Morton (drums), Saxa (saxophone) and Ranking Roger (toasting). The band managed to fuse all of their respective musical influences – soul, reggae, pop and punk – into a unique sound that was highly danceable. Along with contemporaries such as The Specials, The Selecter and Madness, The English Beat became one of the most popular and influential bands of the British Ska movement.
After The English Beat broke up, and Dave Wakeling then formed General Public, which is further described in his own bio:
It was at this point that Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger recruited Stoker (drums) and Mickey Billingham (keyboards) of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Horace Panter (bass) of The Specials, and former Clash guitarist Mick Jones to form General Public. Their first album, “…All The Rage”, met with fantastic success, charting high in the U.S., U.K. and even winning the band a coveted Juno award in Canada for Best New Artist in 1984.
After the fantastic success of “…All The Rage”, the band spent two years writing and recording their follow-up, “Hand to Mouth”. Like “Whappen” before it, this sophomore effort was more introspective and than their first album, taking fans along with him in Dave’s continual exploration of the light and dark side of human emotion. The album was a critical and fan favorite, and spawned two hit singles, “Too Much or Nothing” and “Come Again”.
Currently, two versions of The Beat play today – the US version fronted by Dave Wakeling (who lives in California) and the UK version fronted by Ranking Roger.
Operating on two continents, Dave Wakeling is the only original member of the U.S. version of the band, but all on stage are fantastic musicians that are keeping the music alive, and each played their various part spectacularly. They do still tour quite a bit, and it comes across with their apparent comfort on stage and ease with which they work together as a band. They genuinely appear to have a great deal of fun, which is of course contagious with the crowd.
As far as The English Beat goes, Dave Wakeling’s voice is the lead vocal one would most recognize from their collective body of work, and he still sounds awesome today, being indistinguishable from the studio recordings going back 30 years. He has an immediately recognizable voice
With their three albums, they had many hits, a lot of them played last night: “Tenderness”, “Save It For Later”, “Twist and Crawl”, “Tears of a Clown”, “Rough Rider”, and my favorite, “Mirror in the Bathroom” (which closed out the show).
As per his reputation and fans who attend his live shows will attest to, Dave’s personality was very much on stage last night, and his warm and genuine earnestness and love of music and people was very evident. He had a way of making the event very unique and memorable, and is definitely not the kind of artist to “phone it in” – he was there loving his music and feeding off the audience, which as noted, appeared to be full of many true and ardent fans.
The band put on an amazing show, which kicked off promptly at 8:00 and ran past 10:30, with less than a half an hour break in-between.
Really a great evening and I can’t recommend the venue enough. Grass Valley is a special place, and all of those that work at the venue that I had an opportunity to meet were very nice and enthusiastic about the events that they put together for the community.
Below are some of the photos I shot of the performance (click any image for higher resolution):