"Rudie Come Forward!" (South By Part III)

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When I told my husband about the next show I was going to see, he said, “I don’t know. That has the potential to be really bad. And SAD.” Ever the optimist, I decided to go anyway. I mean it’s the English Beat, afterall. Well, to be accurate, it’s Dave Wakeling fronting a much younger band of polished musicians. No Ranking Roger. No Cox/Steel rhythm section. No Saxa. So you can understand our skepticism, especially since were both surprised to hear that the English Beat (or to everyone else outside of the US, “The Beat”) is still around playing music.

I have a very fond memories of that wave of ska + reggae + pop crashing through my early school years, when I was really starting to discover, explore and form my own musical tastes. From the iconic graphic design to the perfect dance beats, I Just Can’t Stop It was an album on heavy rotation at my house, and a staple of the school dances where we would skank and jump around like little kids who had too much sugar.

So guess what? The show was great. And super fun.

Wakeling has gained a few pounds and no longer has short spikey hair (looking a bit like a grown up frat boy who wandered into the wrong party) but once he starts playing and singing and performing, it all comes back. His voice is true to form and sounds exactly the same. They started in with a slowed down groovy version of Stand Down Margaret and moved uptempo into Rough Rider, Mirror in the Bathroom (gorgeous sax solo), Ranking Full Stop, Twist and Crawl, and big hit Tears of a Clown. By this point the crowd is totally jumping around and dancing, even the middle aged industry guys in their suits and beer guts. How can it be that all these awesome songs were on the same album? And why do I still know all the words, including the Ranking Roger toasting parts?

We were also treated to Save it for Later (from Special Beat Service) and even General Public’s hit, Tenderness. This incarnation of the band has obviously been playing together for a while because they were energetic and tight and just on. I’m so glad to have had the chance to see them live, even if it wasn’t the full original band. To know that the music can still move me after all these years, felt really good. I left the show invigorated and happy and nostalgic…all at the same time. Oh, and sweaty.

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