Saturday, February 7, 2009

The English Beat (aka The Beat) with Bad Manners and Big D & The Kids Table @ Irving Plaza (aka The Fillmore) 2.6.09

I apologize as I only had my crappy camera phone with me to take any semblance of a picture. But, I make no apologies for enjoying ska as much as I do. Doesn't matter if it's from original rudeboys, two-tone, or 3rd wave, I love it all. Well not all of it (Five Iron Frenzy anyone?) but there's something so sprightly about the guitar clicks and marked drumming, sometimes with horns, organs, etc.

Taking influence from some great influences like soul and slyly spreading out and evolving (or de-volving as many detractors would probably want to note) into different directions, you can still see the movement's inspiration to artists today like Lily Allen. I say movement, because as my colleague from Marvelous Observations pointed out at the show yesterday, there's no niche quite like ska in terms of its audience, and a movement like the variations of punk and hip hop because it incorporates not only music, but oftentimes a lifestyle and values. Now that may sound conformist, but it really isn't that serious; it's more like a "have fun, love life" mindset, and to hell with people who say otherwise. Great ska is like a blast of funk and jazz without the pretention mixed with the cathartic nature of soul. My college roommate would say it's "circus music" which it can be, but I'll take it over most music any day.

Another basic thing is that having a whole crowd dancing organically to bands that really incoporate a bit of showmanship is a great site to see, the vibe can be unparalleled.

Anywho, so when I saw that The English Beat were coming around again, and this time with Bad Manners and Big D, I immediately picked up a ticket, put on the braces, and told my feet they were going to hurt afterward from all that bouncing around.

Big D

After a Newcastle, Big D started things off. Now I'm a Big D fan from years ago and I kind of prefer their old stuff off of albums like Good Luck because I thought it was the baddest-ass verison of them, 10 members, back and forth vocals, and wicked breakdowns (oh Boston). They've changed a bit, and their recent album, Strictly Rude, which I have somewhere in my possession, is all ska and less punk. It's a nice album, and doing a couple bigger cuts like "Noise Complaint" certainly were agreeable. But I'm not sure if they are consciously tired of their old stuff, don't have the manpower anymore, or wanted to concentrate their opening slot on newer stuff, but the energy level just wasn't quite there this time. I've always thought bands should do what they do best and to hell with the rest of the bill. I felt like Big D could have brought out the big guns with songs like "Can't Be Caught" or "51 Gardener" and blasted the crowd to pieces. Their energy is most unique like that I think, a very hectic feel, as lean and skinny as frontman Dave himself but having this pop to it. It was still good to see them again.

Bad Manners

The crowd got considerably packed for Bad Manners. It was the shit. Really. Buster Bloodvessel of course took off his pants somewhere around the 3rd song, and by the time they ended with their version of "Can Can" I'm sure the front row may have gotten a nice view of the jewels every time he kicked. Bad Manners kind of takes the most precisely hepped up feel to mid-tempo two-tone without adding much to it unlike other bands of the late 70s and 80s. It's part of the reason why they are the most fun, and probably also the reason why they are a bit less known than The Specials or The English Beat as well (we could even stretch it to the Police), in that canon of bands. With great rompin' stompin' covers of "Sally Brown" and "You're Just Too Good To Be True" (I wished they played "Skinhead Girl") everyone was sweating balls and the place was just HOT. Knees up, elbows swinging, torsos twisting and gyrating, chants on the offbeats of "pick it up pick it up" and "hey hey hey hey".

English Beat

Now I think I prefer last year's concert that English Beat put on with one of my favorite bands, the Rx Bandits, as I think this year with a longer concert and really, an almost unbeatable Bad Manners performance (it will be their last one on this tour), it's hard to keep the audience's attention. Dave Wakeling is the only original member touring with this version of The Beat, so no Ranking Roger, but hey, we'll have to take more of his General Public-ness to get to the good stuff? Sure why not. The Beat really melded 80s pop into their ska machinations anyway, without the kooky charm of Madness. Their traditional pop and great harmonies really shine on great hits like "Save It For Later" and "I Confess" on their later material but for me, as a ska fan, it's really anything off of I Just Can't Stop It which they played most of again that really gets the place moving. The highlight was actually after you thought they were just starting to settle in and hit a dry spot, when they got a roar of energy back to back from "Mirror In The Bathroom" to "Ranking Full Stop". At one point they snuck in Pearl Jam's "Better Man", which was a bit odd but it's great to see the over 45 crowd react. Speaking of which, the crowd was on average much older; I'm going to say there were two averages: 25, and 45. Not much in the middle. With their marathon sets, The Beat put on a great show, albeit just a bit long on their outros. Dave Wakeling, all scruffy voiced and constantly referring to copious amounts of pints, his pick shaped guitar, was all smiles as he took the crowd back about 30 years.

The skins were out in much fuller force this time, I half expected there to be a line of scooters around the corner by Galaxy. The crowd is always enjoyable to peruse, because I just think that you get more niche and it's interesting to see how music and fashion, culture, etc. get blended. Oh pork pie hats! Oh bald heads! Natural or shaven! Skank!

1 comment:

wabten said...

Well put, my friend. Circus Music is fun. And I didn't even get change thrown at me this time.