30th Anniversary English Beat Deliver Two-Tone Wallop On Vancouver

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The English Beat

The English Beat
Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC
September 10, 2010

By Christopher Ryan

3.5 stars

The Beat / English Beat, is a monument to the Two Tone era, driven by unity; a stand against the failures of British Capitalism and the divisions inherent. So the irony is thick since only, Dave Wakeling was the only original member of the band on stage, his former cohorts living, and playing in other projects, in the UK, while Wakeling heads up the American version. There’s no doubt the original members are devastating musicians, but there was enough breathtaking moments of magic to dismiss pessimistic comparisons outright.

Whether it was veteran front man Dave’s pace-setting comments between songs, or the vibrancy of toaster Anthony First Class’s voice bewitching the audience during guitar changes, the band dwarfed the audience with their command of the stage. Clean, syncopated beats, thick bass, and uplifting harmonies, are the backbone of most ska. Unfortunately, the rolling bass lines were lost in the mix throughout the most of the room; only heard properly if one was planted close to either stack of speakers.

For the ska driven numbers, it was noticeable but a few spaces of their long set were composed of tunes with a softer, jazz flow, like I Confess. The smooth licks of an electric stand-up melded perfectly as the band proved that musicians must grow over their careers, and this Beat project’s fans were willing to let them go…to an extent. At times it was a bit like honey being poured over sugar cubes and, as their set went on, and on, the audience became less patient with the soft touches.

There is a famous saying that an artist should, ‘Leave them wanting more.’ This being a 30th Anniversary, and most likely final tour, didn’t apply. This was evident in the quick crowd dispersal at the end of a rushed Mirror in the Bathroom, even though the band pushed into another song. One of the most interesting moments of the night came at the height of one of their jazzed-out runs. Matt Morrish’s saxophone was dancing all over the sliding changes when a group of young punks, completely caught up in the energy of the moment, expressed their approval in a massive stomp-fest in the middle of the crowd, dead on with the underlying beat. At first, the surrounding mix of fans looked a little nervous, but soon realized it was a positive vibe and everyone became more physically involved. It was heartening to see these punks show their appreciation in the only way they knew, to a style of music they have, probably, never listened to.

In all, an excellent night of music, and noble send off to a Two Tone time whose social and political problems are a little too relevant to us, today. Let’s hope the unity is, too.

Photo from youtube.

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