WRITTEN BY: MADDIE REID
The English Beat, known in their native England as simply “The Beat,” played Underground Arts on Sunday, March 5. They brought their mixed style of ska, rock, reggae, and pop to Philly, a style The Beat has been perfecting since 1979.
Opening the show was The Bullbuckers from Wilmington, Delaware. This ska band cites The Beat as an inspiration, and it as clear that they were honored to share the stage with ska music legends. Their bouncing beats and catchy guitar riffs had the crowd pumped up and ready for the moment The English Beat took the stage.
From the minute they walked on stage to their last song, the Beat had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Some watched from the front guardrail, others hung in the back, and the rest were dancing on the floor, but no matter where you were standing it was clear that the band and the crowd were feeding off of each other’s energy. Opening songs “Rough Rider,” “Tears of a Clown,” and “Hands Off… She’s Mine” had even those in the back tapping their feet and moving their hips.
Although vocalist and guitarist Dave Wakeling is the only original member of The English Beat, the other six members on stage did an excellent job of playing both new and classic songs. Matt Morrish on saxophone and King Schaschas as toaster specifically stood out on stage, soaring above other members during their solos, and contributing to the rhythms when the band played in unison. As toaster Schaschas followed the Jamaican tradition of talking and chanting over a vocal, channeling reggae music that has been such an influence on The English Beat.
The Beat shines as cover artists. They are a band not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, and it shows with how they play covers to perfection and precision, while adding their own signature sound. Cover highlights were “Tenderness,” originally by General Public and “Jackpot,” originally by The Pioneers and used by The Beat as their closing song. “Mirror In The Bathroom,” played second to last, had everyone in the crowd singing along and nodding to the bass line. Originally released in 1980 on the album I Just Can’t Stop It, “Mirror In The Bathroom” is one of The English Beat’s most popular songs, and it still gets a loud reaction from an audience.
The English Beat speaks about unity in their lyrics, and held true to this belief during their performance. Multiple times throughout the show, frontman Dave Wakeling encouraged the crowd to applaud Morrish’s sex solos and move to the bass and guitar melodies. The spirit of joy and camaraderie was alive with The English Beat. Ska music, known for its dance inducing beats and guitar riffs, was alive and well on this Sunday night at Underground Arts. Not everyone wore classic ska checker print, but everyone felt the spirit and energy that The English Beat has been playing since 1979.