Location: The Loft in Atlanta
Supporting Act: Bad Manners
In the Company of: Thomas S.
Margaret Thatcher has been out of the spotlight for several years. This, however, did not spoil the vibe of hearing “Stand Down Margaret” live. It still feels relevant these days as more and more Americans have discovered they have a voice in the political process. Original English Beater Dave Wakeling kicked off the show with “Whine and Grine / Stand Down Margaret” at the cozy Loft in Atlanta. It was loud, hot, and crowded…it was Ska.
Although Wakeling appeared to be the only original member left – he was surrounded by a younger generation of musicians – this seemed like a time warp back to 1979. That year was mentioned frequently throughout the evening as the Beat are celebrating their 30th anniversary. A notable omission from the line up was Wakeling’s right-hand man from the early days, Ranking Roger, who added the reggae/island/Ska feel to the sound of the English Beat. His replacement did and adequate job of filling in those “ranking” gaps. Replacing the grandfather of the Beat, saxophone player Papa Saxa, was a younger and more handsome sax player who did a terrific job of hitting all the notes.
The song list was a veritable greatest hits collection. “Mirror In The Bathroom,” a song some believe refers to cocaine addiction, was a rollicking dancer (“Mirror in the bathroom please talk free / The door is locked just you and me / Can I take you to a restaurant that’s got glass tables / You can watch yourself while you are eating”). Other joys included “Hands Off She’s Mine,” “Doors Of Your Heart,” “I Confess,” “Twist And Crawl,” “Rankin Full Stop,” “Click Click,” and “Can’t Get Used To Losing You.”
The group’s first single was the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles cover, “Tears Of A Clown,” which must be one of the all-time great remakes and an all out sing-along for this show. During the classic “Save It For Later,” the Beat broke into the I-didn’t-see-it-coming moment of the show playing a few verses of Pearl Jam’s “Better Man.” When two musical worlds such as this collide, everybody wins.
When the band disbanded in 1983, Wakeling and Roger formed the group General Public, while Andy Cox and David Steele hired Roland Gift to sing in the future hit machine Fine Young Cannibals. On this night, Dave played three GP songs, “I’ll Take You There,” “Never You Done That,” and the hit “Tenderness.”
Wakeling’s smooth-as-gold voice is still mostly intact. The absence of Ranking Roger was unfortunate, but with your eyes closed, you may not have missed him too terribly (sorry Roger). With a crowd full of thirty- and forty-somethings dancing like they were back in college, it was definitely a party atmosphere. Some fans report their first exposure to the English Beat being when Police front man Sting wore one of their t-shirts in the video “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”
Opening band Bad Manners, an English 2-Tone Ska revival band like the Beat, had quite an illustrious career in early 80s England. Leader of the band Buster Bloodvessel was big, bald, burly, and quite the extrovert. A few of their selections included “Lip Up Fatty,” “My Girl Lollipop,” and “Lorraine.” The numerous times we saw the full length of Bloodvessel’s tongue would have been enough to make Gene Simmons run for cover. It was enormous and bordering on disturbing (at least for me). With a first-rate band and a great three-piece horn section, Bad Manners truly warmed up the crowd. We were all primed with a lesson in Ska.