The English Beat are better than you remember. Off the top of your head, you can only recall "Mirror in the Bathroom" and their cool logo. But they have more songs that make you go, "Oh, yeah, this is really good," than you realized. And they can get a party going on a cold Tuesday night in January like nobody's business.
"How Can You Stand There?" was the unofficial theme song for the night.
It was probably about political apathy, but it applied to the audience
at a more literal level to the few hold-outs in the audience. Most of
the sold-out crowd at Johnny D's was on their feet and dancing. Even
people with seats at tables on the edges of the crowded room were up
and moving. Dave Wakeling could taunt someone up front for standing
still with arms folded only because it was a rarity. Even more
impressive about "How Can You Stand There?" is that it was a new song,
not yet recorded, but it fit in so easily with their repertoire of hits
that the audience never slowed down.
And the major and minor hits kept coming: "Hands Off She's Mine," "I
Confess," "Best Friend," "Twist and Crawl," "Save It For Later" (See
what I said about more good songs than you remember?) They brought out
the covers that they put their own stamp on, "Tears of a Clown," "Can't
Get Used to Losing You" and "I'll Take You There." Guitarist and singer
Dave Wakeling is the only original member still with the band; the
current keyboard player probably wasn't even born when the Ranking
Roger was bobbing around in videos in the early days of MTV. But the
line-up in tight, ably delivering the material that made the band the
epitome of the early '80s ska revival.
No, the evening wasn't perfect. While it was impressive that they
played more than two hours, the energy in the room sagged at around the
1 hour 45 mark; they could have trimmed a few songs and still kept the
audience more than satisfied. And it's hard to fully endorse a group so
clearly trading on nostalgia. But it's also hard to fault a band that
generates so much fun.