The English Beat. At SOhO, Saturday, December 30, 2006.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Despite a certain audience member’s assertions to the contrary,
Ranking Roger — the Jamaica-born toast maestro who cofounded The
English Beat with Dave Wakeling in the late 1970s — was not at SOhO
Saturday night with the band. (Nor was former bandmate Saxa, for
that matter.) Or, if Roger was, he never really emerged onto the
narrow stage. Nonetheless, Wakeling, who lives in the Los Angeles
area and seems to be touring in the same mode as he has for the
last two decades, took the stage with a hot band equipped to play
note-perfect versions of his impressive oeuvre. Former bandmates
aside, Wakeling calls it The English Beat now, as is, no doubt, his

But who cares? The show was fun. After all, has anyone ever
written songs more intelligent and yet wildly danceable? The band
kicked off with “Rough Rider,” as Wakeling termed it, a “dirty
reggae song,” then played ’80s memories like “Twist & Crawl,”
“Ackee 1-2-3,” and “Doors to Your Heart.” They began a second set
after an extended break with “Whine & Grine,” blasted through
“2 Swords,” then did “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Tenderness” (the
only General Public song of the night, inducing a host of women
onstage to bump and grind inappropriately to the song’s call for
gentility). Wakeling opened up “Hands Off, She’s Mine” with a
mantra-like chant, inhabiting the moment while evoking the
call-and-response soul of original ska. He often seemed happy, too,
a veritable lord of the greatest pub band in the world. On the
other hand, he threw away some obvious possibilities, like using
“Stand Down, Margaret” to blast the overconfident idiot currently
running down this country’s reputation.

The evening’s crowd wasn’t great, often proudly showcasing its
narcissistic boorishness. Wakeling reacted in mild horror, twice
stopping the show to prevent skank skirmishes by booze-fueled,
no-longer-young knuckleheads — including a big blonde woman,
underdressed and over-alcoholed, who started two fights. Good

Understandably, SOhO management anguishes over all-age crowds
getting into trouble. But after watching this fun party get creepy
a couple of times, I privately concluded they should always admit
younger people. That way the 40-year-olds can learn from the
younger kids how to act at a show.


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