The English Beat | Picturedrome | Holmfirth | 7 Mar 2014

The English Beat prove to be a real treat...

Dave Wakeling and The English Beat performed at the Holmfirth Picturedrome on Friday evening, the opening night of a short visit to these shores. Wakeling, is of course, one of the founders of the original Beat who had a string of chart success in the early '80s before the band called it a day after their third album with Wakeling and Ranking Roger going on to form General Public and Andy Cox and David Steele forming Fine Young Cannibals. Wakeling then moved to the West Coast of America where he resides to this day, although listening to his still broad Brummie accent you'd think he was fresh off the train from West Bromwich.

The Beat and The English Beat have an arrangement that works well for both bands although can be confusing. Ranking Roger tours with his version of the band - the Beat - regularly perform this side of the pond and are actually touring now, whereas Wakeling and the English Beat spread the two-tone ska message Stateside where they regularly performing in excess of a hundred gigs a year. It's an arrangement that sees fans on both sides of the Atlantic getting a regular chance to hear some classic songs. And I don't use the word "classic" lightly - no less than Rolling Stone magazine named "I Just Can't Stop It" one of the 100 Best Debut Albums ever - and anyone around in the early '80s will remember many of the songs performed at the Picturedrome - "Rough Rider", "Twist & Crawl", "Best Friend", "Jackpot", "Ranking Fullstop", "Tears of a Clown", "Can't Get Used To Losing You", "I Confess", "Save It For Later", "Hands Off She's Mine", "Mirror In The Bathroom" and "Stand Down Margaret". Wakeling and his six piece band comprising of Phil Gough (guitar), Rhythmm Epkins (drums), Antonee First Class (toaster), Matt Morrish (saxophone), Kevin Lum (keyboards) and Larry Young (bass) were augmented by special guest Roddy "Radiation" Byers the ex-Specials guitarist who added some cool moves and guitar licks to "Concrete Jungle", "Pressure Drop" and "Hey, Little Rich Girl".

Wakeling admitted to being nervous as he took the stage, but within no time the nerves had disappeared as the crowd found their dancing feet and lapped up the songs. Forgoing a setlist, something you don't see too often these days, the band preferred to rely on intuition, choosing the songs and set order on the fly and reacting to the audience - further evidence of their tightness no doubt a result of their regular US performances. Antonee First Class in particular did a notably fine job of filling Ranking Roger's toasting shoes to great effect. It was nice to see Wakeling still using his iconic Phantom Teardrop guitar too - you don't see them too often! It was a fine performance, and a terrific start to the tour which wraps up in Newcastle on 19 March.

Support was provided by Manchester's premier ska band, The Uplifters who last released their debut album 'Who Turned The Lights Out', and will return to the Picturedrome later this summer when they will be supporting the Ranking Roger version of The Beat at the Summer Ska Spash on 26 July.

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