The Beat first formed in Birmingham back in 1978, part of the 2-Tone movement bringing about a revival of Jamaican ska rhythms, a fusion of reggae, punk rock and pop – a scene that also produced The Specials, The Selecter, Madness and The Bodysnatchers. After two successful albums, extensive tours of the US and UK and hits such as ‘Mirror In Bathroom’, ‘Can’t Get Used to Losing You’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’ – the cracks began to appear. Some of the band had lost their passion for performing to 10,000 people a night across the US and wanted a break.
Lead singer Dave Wakeling and toasting supremo Ranking Roger formed General Public whilst David Steele and Andy Cox started Fine Young Cannibals. With Dave Wakeling’s move to LA, Ranking Roger temporarily joined Big Audio Dynamite before forming the The Special Beat with members of The Specials and later continued to tour as The Beat, while Wakeling’s band became known as The English Beat.
Ranking Roger’s son Murphy known as Ranking Jr performed on the 2005 Ordinary Boys track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ and is known for his MC'ing and toasting skills (the act of talking or chanting over a rhythm or beat by a deejay) – like father like son, Ranking Jr soon started touring with The Beat. Read our interview with Roger and Murphy here….to hear how the union came about.
Through the foyer and past the bustling bar of uniformed Ska fans – not often you see so many men wearing braces, porkpie hat and 2 Tone apparel. This is what I love about a band with a following and a distinct style, you can shed the 9 to 5 monotonous habiliments and embrace your passion and re-live the glories days with your tribe.
Support act 'Highest Grade Soundsystem' (I thought it was going to be a shopping channel style presentation of the musical equipment they sold) were a little lacklustre. They sort of resembled a few university mates hanging around a bedroom playing each other some of their favourite tunes. My friend described them as reggae disco in the back room of a bar.
There were a few people jiggling about in the sparsely filled room – as is often the way for a support act when people are only interested in seeing the headliners. In their defence I hear later on, some of the crew got up and sang along to a few numbers – but I missed this as I was outside interviewing the very lovely Murphy/Ranking Jr.
At 9:30pm on the dot, the band took to the stage for a full 90 minute set, encompassing 21 tracks! The room is packed and peppered with anticipation for what will be an awesome gig. Ranking Roger looking splendid in a long frock coat with adornments, baggy black trousers full of chains, zips, rings and a dapper pair of 2 tone Brogue boots. With long slender dreads flowing, Ranking Roger rocks the look and his smile and charisma hooks the crowd as they launch into the upbeat ‘Return of the Dread-I’.
Ranking Roger chats with the audience into between songs and introduces each number with a comment like ‘This next one goes out to all the rude boys’ cue the first of many ‘Rude Boys’ chants from the men as they play ‘Hands off She’s Mine’ from the 1980 album ‘I Just Can’t Stop it’.
Song three from the same year ‘Too Nice To Talk To’ sees the Ranking duo bring out the tambourines as the tempo lifts and the dancing and singing from the crowd heightens as inhibitions are lost. The Beat toured with The Clash in the 80’s so when we hear ‘This one goes out to Joe Strummer’ you know we will be treated to their version of ‘Rock the Casbah’ with excellent saxophone solo from Matt Godwin.
By track five the coat is coming off as Ranking Roger ironically says ‘Here’s a nice slow one’ the tempo gathers even more pace and he bounces about the stage with dreads and chains swinging and the energy of a young whippet rocking out. Ranking Jr takes centre stage for song six as his father says ‘Give it up for my son’, with excellent crowd interaction and energy for Murphy’s impeccable and incredible toasting skills.
With songs ‘Going out for all the rude girls in the house’ with accompanying chanting – the females were somewhat outnumbered with a predominately male crowd, but they filled the front few rows, sung along to every word. Some very overtly flirtatious looks were flying Roger’s way particularly during ‘Rough Rider’. ‘Is everyone happy?’ hell yeah the rooms erupts.
During ‘Get a Job’ a member of the crowd passed his trilby hat for Roger to wear and that definitely made his night, this spurred on a female member to pass her hat up and she lunged in for a kiss on its return ‘That was a rude boy kiss’, full on the lips – she looked very happy indeed.
At times the mosh-pit was energetically active with bare chested members – this was perhaps a bit much for some of the teenage girls with their mums at the front – but this is to be expected from a 'ska' loving audience. A chance to let loose and show your appreciation for the band with jostling, moshing and body contact, but nothing too aggressive on display here tonight though.
A track called ‘Dangerous’ was described as ‘experimental’ and this was the only moment of low energy as the little known song caused the audience to chat and stop dancing briefly. Followed immediately with another new one ‘My Dream’ which was back on top form and if they release an album of songs of this calibre, then they're onto a winner.
‘Tears of a Clown’ was a real crowd pleaser and the ladies were in for another treat when Ranking Jr shouts out ‘Who wants a free t-shirt?’ and removes his band t-shirt to much screaming, shouting and grabs for the shirt as he throws it into the audience. Quite a few more cameras suddenly appeared as the very fit Murphy danced about the stage with his well-defined six-pack on full display!
Launching into their biggest hit ‘Mirror In A Bathroom’ the audience erupt and surge forward for this extended 12” version, for a time instrumental as the Rankings temporarily leave the stage – the crowd still dances and sing on. Roger appears back with his top rolled up like a Britney Spear’s midriff showing teen – yes dad still has the body and looks too like Jr! As Roger starts toasting over the track it is quite mesmerizing in its speed and fluency. Even the burly security man is singing full pelt as the lyrics come back in.
With peace signs raised in the air, the Ranking duo bid us ‘Peace and Unity – thank you’, before leaving the stage. What follows is one the of the loudest cheering, foot stamping frenzy for more that I have come across, with smatterings of ‘Rude Boy’ thrown in for good measure.
‘Who wants some more’ – oh yes we all do! Ranking Roger takes to the drums whilst Jr sings ‘Save it for Later’ then they end with ‘Jackpot’. ‘Has everyone enjoyed themselves?’ yes yes yes. They delivered a fabulous high energy set and as they sang a goodbye to everyone, the whole crowd is waving farewell. Before leaving the stage for the final time the dynamic duo pound fists and shake hands with people jostling to make contact with them.
Excellent musicians with Oscar Harrison from Ocean Colour Scene on drums, Steve Harper on guitar, Andy Pearson on bass and the stunning Mike Godwin on saxophone (who I saw outside beforehand pacing nervously).
Give it up, give it up, give it up for The Beat. A more humble, respectful, energetic and friendly father and son duo you could not hope to meet. Please read our interview with Ranking Roger and Ranking Jr HERE
For all of the pictures from the interview and gig, check out the GALLERY
Review by Molly-Mole and Hayley Bird
Photography by Bruce Benson www.241photography.co.uk