September 6, 2011

English Beat - The Bell House - September 2, 2011

Friday night was my first time seeing a concert at The Bell House in Brooklyn. I'm from Brooklyn and very familiar with the neighborhood but still wasn't sure where I was going or if the show was starting on time. Fortunately, once I found The Bell House, Dave Wakeling, Rhythmm Epkins and Wayne Lothian were standing outside. As soon as I recognized Wakeling's face, I was relieved that I hadn't missed the beginning of The English Beat's set. But, then again, I do recall thinking that Wakeling had a worried look on his face, which I later learned was about Antonee First Class's delayed arrival from Philadelphia.

Once inside The Bell House performance area, I decided I liked the space. It's a big cavernous room with two gold chandlers and a stage against the back wall in the middle of the room. The bar is stage right and off to side. The room looks like it fits between 300 - 400 people. The sound in the place seemed pretty good, but please don't go by my judgement because I stood conspicuously in front of the The English Beat for their entire set. I, therefore, don't know what the band sounded like in other parts of the room.

English Beat walked on stage at 10PM. I would like to think that the boys made up for starting late by playing straight through for the following two hours. However, I looked at an English Beat set list online from St. Louis in March of this year and it was just as long. So, basically, The English Beat enjoy performing long sets but since they have very recognizable material, 2 hours went by really quickly.

Wakeling called out the name of the first song before starting it and did the same for the second. I automatically noticed, that after all these years,Wakeling's voice has the same vibriance it had in 1982. Wakeling's vocals still hold up to English Beat's recordings and so do the arrangements which were elongated and sometimes milked for the benefit of the audience. "Tears of A Clown" was one of those songs where the band repeated a chorus with Wakeling doing some adlib scatting.

As front men, Wakeling and First Class have a stage presence that translates into "we are having a party and you're all invited." While Wakeling often did traditional song setups, First Class toasted between songs often pumping up the audience and giving Wakeling a chance to change guitars. After the band charmed the crowd with "Hands Off, She's Mine" and had them dancing with "Twist and Crawl," First Class did some toasting about the 80's requiring some audience response. It went something like "Does anyone remember the nineteen - eight - oh?...say yo."

English Beat next did a really cool version of The Staple Singers "I'll Take You There." It sounded like the guys have been doing the song for awhile and there may even be a recording of it which I haven't heard. Whatever the case may be, I enjoyed First Class toasting in the middle of the song and the band hits (pronounced stops and starts) at the song's end.

After playing a few more songs, Wakeling talked about the recent rioting and looting in the UK and mentioned that some of it happened in Birmingham where he is originally from. Up to that point I had conspicuously been taking notes, but did not know the name of the song Wakeling had just set up. So after the song, I asked him and he not only told me that the name of the song was "Two Swords" but explained the song's title from the stage.

I am usually not in the habit of bugging a performer on stage but at some point prior to my asking about the song, a woman in front of me also asked Wakeling a question - so I figured why not. Wakeling's response to the woman's question was " Ok -you're just gonna break down that forth wall!" I didn't know what their exchange was about but later found out.

Once the English Beat got to the song "Save It For Later" the woman in front of me hopped on stage with her friend, as her boyfriend took pictures with his cell phone from the audience. Of course, once there were two woman on stage, there were certainly four more to follow. Some of the band smiled through the moment and Wakeling looked like he was having fun. Sax player Matt Morrish looked slightly afraid as if he was either overwhelmed or as if he might be later getting some grief from his girlfriend.

Prior to doing "Whine & Grine/ Stand Down Margaret" First Class did some shout outs to his predecessor Ranking Roger as well as all the bands that were around when The Beat began like The Specials. First Class then made some soccer reference before introducing guest rapper,Roy Radics, but what he said went past me and I missed the connection. Radics did some rapping to "Whine & Grine" - it was good but I can't honestly state that he was memorable except maybe for his Mets baseball cap.

I knew most of English Beat's material but I confess (pun intended) there were 2 or 3 songs which I wasn't familiar with, "Never You Done That," being one of them. Luckily, the crowd around me who was ever so curious about what I kept writing down were really helpful. If I asked someone the name of a song and they didn't know, they asked their boyfriend, girlfriend or partner before getting back to me.

After the song "Tenderness," First Class did a song for the ladies which I assume is called "Two Tone Ladies." Although the song sounded very impromptu, it also sounded like an idea formulated on stage while on road as it morphed into a song. That's not a bad thing, I'm sure many hit songs have been written that way.

Sometimes I surprise myself because I often fall in love with a band's most cheesiest song. Case in point is "Can't Get Use To Losing You."  I was waiting for the song and was glad it was part of English Beat's set list - it has the certain 60's wet (as in heavy on the reverb) je ne sais quoi.  First Class did some cool toasting which I don't recall being on the original recording. The patter went along the lines "I told her I love her - she said I know....I told her [fill in the blank]....she said I know.etc.,"

English Beat saved the best for last with "Ranking Full" and "Mirror In The Bathroom."  The latter always will remind me of my friend Maria.  I often danced to song in the 80's but never paid attention to lyric which she pointed out to me. I can still hear Maria singing "Can I take you a restaurant that's got glass tables? You can watch yourself while you are eating." We were a pretentious bunch but then again it was the 80's.  Of course, the woman had to jump on stage again for "Mirror In The Bathroom," but this time they were joined by two guys. (Hey everybody, jump in the pool!!)

The English Beat ended their set with "Jackpot" which is predisposed to being a closing number because the lyric includes saying goodbye at the song's end. But First Class of course did not let the song end without some additional toasting which I guess might be I titled "Think About The Two Tone."  "Jackpot" seemed to take a few musical turns before it reached the point where it was time for the boys to wave goodnight. Once the song ended Wakeling and other members of the band walked around shanking everyone's hand, when he shook mine he asked if I got everything down. I did and it was all good.  There is only one way to describe an English Beat concert - 100% fun!!

  1. Rough Rider"
  2. Tears Of A Clown  (Smoky Robinson Cover)
  3. Hands Off She's Mine
  4. Twist and Crawl
  5. I'll Take You There (Cover originally by The Staple Singers)
  6. I Confess
  7. Best Friend
  8. The Love That You Give Last Forever (1994 Dave Wakeling release)
  9. Two Swords
  10. Doors of Your Heart
  11. Click, Click
  12. Save It For Later
  13. Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret
  14. Never You Done That  (General Public)
  15. Tenderness (General Public)
  16. Two Tone Lady  (Accapella)
  17. Can't Get Used To Losing You (Cover originally sung by Andy Williams )
  18. Ranking Full Stop
  19. Mirror In The Bathroom
  20. Jackpot /(Think about the Two -Tone)

The English Beat Are:
Dave Wakeling - Lead Vocals/ Guitar
Rhythmm Epkins- Drums/Vocals
Wayne Lothian - Bass/ Vocals
Antonee First Class- Toasting
Kevin Lum - Keyboards
Matt Morrish- Sax/ Vocals
Rick Torres - Guitarist/ Vocals

Guest Rapper - Roy Radics


  1. Nice review. About the set list, the title of song 12 is actually Save It For Later.

  2. You're right - LOL Thanks! I changed it from "Sooner or Later."

  3. Also, since you were curious about this, General Public did the cover of I'll Take You There, which appeared on the Threesome soundtrack many moons ago.