The English Beat With the Paul Collins Beat: New York, NY, October 16, 2012
B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill
New York, New York
October 16, 2012
Back in the late '70s/early '80s, there were two groups call The Beat. One group was from Birmingham, England, the other band was from Los Angeles, CA. Both bands had managed to capture the fancy of the concert-going and music-buying public of the time. Soon it became apparent that the name the two bands shared was causing some confusion, both in the music industry and among fans. The English band rechristened itself the English Beat and the band from Los Angeles became the Paul Collins Beat.
The English Beat and the Paul Collins Beat, touring together for the first time under the "Two Beats Heart As One" banner, worked the audience at B.B. King's into a frenzy as they partied like it was 1982. Prior to the show, members of the audience, which included many journalists attending the 2012 CMJ Music Marathon Conference, milled about and buzzed in anticipation while waiting for the Eighties icons to take the stage.
With the tables that usually populate the center of the club cleared to the sides, creating a large dance floor, the Paul Collins Beat took the stage. Collins announced that he "used to live about five blocks from here. It was a very different New York back then." His guitar-driven power-pop got the audience on their feet and dancing to the grooves as he delivered "I Don't Fit In," "Workaday World, " "Hanging On the Telephone" (from his days in the Nerves with Peter Case and Jack Lee) and "Let Me Into Your Life" (co-written with Eddie Money). Collins' between-song patter was both amusing and tender. He joked about the musical scene back in the day as he told self-deprecating stories about the genesis of his songs, even announcing that his mother, girlfriend and son were in the crowd.
Collins and his band (the Morris brothers from Sydney, Australia on drums and guitar and Simon O'Brien on bass) played with a passion and a ferocity not often seen in a newer group, let alone a group that has been around for a few decades. Their hard-driving set also included "Working Too Hard," "The Kids Are the Same" (which was dedicated to Collins' son), "Rock and Roll Girl" and "Walking Out on Love." Before "Different Kind of Girl," Collins announced that it would be the band's last song and it was "about all the girls we love."
When the song ended, Collins ambled over to the merchandise table and during the intermission sold T-shirts, LPs and CDs while happily chatting with fans, posing for pictures and signing merchandise.
After about twenty minutes, Dave Wakeling and the reconstituted English Beat took the stage. Though David Steele, Ranking Roger and Andy Cox are not part of the tour, this version of the band sent the crowd into a frenzy from the very start. With the 2012 release of not one, but three albums on Shout! Factory Records-the career-encompassing box set The Complete Beat, the greatest hits single CD Keep The Beat: The Very Best of The English Beat and the CD/DVD Live At The US Festival, '82 & '83-the English Beat's blend of punky ska, reggae, pop, new wave, rock, soul, funk, Motown, dance hall and dub is once again getting attention from critics and fans alike.
Wakeling and his group treated the audience to a greatest hits show that featured extended versions of some of the band's biggest hits. Opening with "Rough Rider," the band immediately hit its stride and had the crowd dancing to the beat. Next up was the ska-ed-up cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Tears Of A Clown."
With the dance floor already teeming with sweaty members of the audience, Antonee First Class posed a question, "So there's only one question that needs to be asked. Are you ready to some skanking?" As the crowd erupted, the band launched into a spirited version of "Hands Off She's Mine." By playing off Wakeling (who did most of the talking and had the most interaction with the crowd), Antonee still managed to work them up to a higher level of insanity by asking similarly basic and simple questions. To the audience members who specifically came for the English Beat, it didn't matter. They were there to relive their youth and to dance. Antonee also received some of the evening's biggest cheers with his call and response chant, "When I say English, you say Beat!"
Wakeling was in rare form, his voice stellar and his banter joyful. "Save It For Later" was introduced with a chuckle and the statement, "Time to Do a Pearl Jam song." At another point during the show, he also announced that "All of that was just a warm-up. Are you ready to twist and crawl?" the crowd screamed that they were and the band then played on. "Two Swords" was introduced as a song "about throwing bricks at Nazi's heads."
About 30 miles east of B.B. King's, at Hofstra University, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney were engaged in a debate on this same evening. Wakeling, who is quite politically engaged as evidenced by his posts on Facebook, introduced "Best Friend" with, "I haven't played this one in about 25 years, but in honor of tonight's debate..." The song include the "You been talkin' about yourself again/I know I cease to share your views/Why doesn't everybody listen to you kid?" lyric. The set also included the band's Eighties hits and concert staples: "I'll Take You There," "I Confess," "Click, Click" (which perfectly melds ska with power-pop), their cover of Andy Williams' "Can't Get Used to Losing You," "Soul Salvation," and "Stand Down Margaret."
The show came to a close with tour de force performances of "Tenderness" from General Public's All The Rage (IRS, 1984), "Ranking Full Stop" (led by Antonee First Class) and "Mirror In The Bathroom."
With the maniacally joyous fans skanking and dancing to the beat and many members of the audience wearing vintage English Beat T-shirts (as well as new ones purchased at the merchandise stand), it was obvious that Wakeling's new band matched the quality and musical mastery of his original group.
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].