It is always a total joy to see The Beat and this gig was hugely exciting as it was a chance to hear material from their excellent new album ‘Bounce’ performed live. Before the gig I spent time with Ranking Roger talking about the album and how the material came about. You can see the video interview below and there is a transcript of it in our 'Intro' section.
After the interview, we filtered into the auditorium where the show was about to commence....
Skata Tones jumped in at the last minute for support duties as the original band had to cancel due to illness. This worked out in our favour as Skata Tones are a great North Devon band who previously supported The Beat in Plymouth on this tour.
Skata Tones originally formed as a college band three/four years ago and have been playing in this current line-up for the past year. Due to the late booking, the trombone player couldn’t make it but we were still treated to a great set with Robbie Hurrell on vocals, Rob Brooks guitar and vocals, Sir Strawberry H Jamalot (aka Ben) on sax, James Fidge bass and Billy Hammett drums.
I chatted to the band before the sound check and the lads scrub up nicely and were suitably attired in waistcoats and ties when stage ready. Rob was telling me about his dad, their manager, who is a life-long fan of The Beat and how much it meant to them all to have the opportunity to support them having grown-up listening to them.
Skata Tones play a mixture of original and covers with a reggae, dub, dance and ska sound. By their third song they had the crowd all dancing and on-board and mid set they upped the tempo and the room was bouncing. Robbie worked well talking to the audience and warming them up for The Beat and musically they were tight and full of energy.
By the merchandise stand afterwards lots of people were talking about how ‘sick’ the support was and one audience member Frankie Viggers said “Honestly, it’s not often I enjoy support bands so much, but they were so hyper and up and readying the crowd.”
You can catch Skata Tones on New Year’s Eve at The Phoenix and they have a four track EP ‘Live Your Life Up’ out now from www.skatatones.co.uk
The Beat first formed in Birmingham in the late 70’s, 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 and Madness. After two successful albums and hits such as ‘Mirror In Bathroom’, ‘Can’t Get Used to Losing You’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’ the band split with Dave Wakeling’s move to LA, Ranking Roger temporarily joined Big Audio Dynamite before forming 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, (aka Ranking Jr), has phenomenal MC'ing and toasting skills and soon started touring with The Beat. Fuzz Townsend (formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself and presenter of Car S.O.S) is on drums, with the incredible Chiko Hamilton on sax, Andy Pearson bass guitar and Bobby Bird on guitar.
Fuzz and Bobby take to the stage first and start playing as the crowd cheers with Andy and Chiko joining them before the collective energetic force of Ranking Roger and Ranking Jr came bounding onto the stage with shouts of “Love and unity”, “Come on everyone let me see you clap your hands” as they vigorously launch into ‘Stand Down Margaret’.
Tambourines in hand, they have the audience all dancing to ‘Too Nice to Talk to’. Ranking Jr is looking dapper in his blue suit and pristine white trainers, whilst Ranking Roger is in his usual resplendent style of black zipped trousers and chains with a rather glorious crushed organza hooded star covered top.
“The next song goes out to all the rude girls”, the Fred Perry audience members are loving this, followed up with ‘Trigger Trigger’.
The energy and speed at which father and son bounce about the stage is infectious and it is hard not to be caught up in the excitement and pure joy of watching them perform; the smile never leaves my face.
“Big hand to my son Ranking Jr”, as they play the first of the new material with the track ‘Side to Side’ written by Murphy which showcases his fantastic MCing skills to the max. ‘Avoid The Obvious’ is a stand out track from the album and goes down well with the crowd followed by ‘Walking On The Wrong Side’.
It is the newer material from Bounce that I enjoy the most as I listen to the album so much it is magnificent to hear them performed live. It can be difficult to introduce new material after decades of playing the classic crowd favourites, but the new material fits The Beat sound so well that they incorporate very successfully and it is great to see some singing along already knowing the words.
“Time for a song for the rude boys” with ‘Hands Off She’s Mine’ and with this Ranking Roger sheds his organza to reveal his tight fitting BIONIC top accentuating his toned physique.
‘Best Friend’, ‘Monkey Murders’, ‘Tears Of A Clown’ are all played superbly before the first live airing of ‘Fire Burn’ , which after a false start wows the crowd and allows Fuzz a moment to really shine on the drums with Roger masterfully conducting with a countdown to end.
‘My Dream’ is another chance for Murphy to shine followed up with ‘Jack Pot’ with a chorus of ‘Goodbyes’ before they leave the stage.
Much cheering brings the band ricocheting back on and straight into ‘Ranking Full Stop’ which is a full on choreographed piece with Fuzz coming to front “Are you ready Exeter, it’s drummer time”, with Roger and Murphy frozen in their positions until Fuzz beats them in.
Murphy’s shirt has miraculously come open, giving Roger a run for his money in the six-pack department. For the last song they give us an extended version of ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ before leaving the stage for the last time with “Peace, love and unity – we are The Beat”.
Another superbly energetic crowd-pleasing performance from one of my all-time favourite bands, I can’t wait to see them again! And I am quite sure I might have spotted Pauline Black from The Selector in the audience.
If you have not got a copy of ‘Bounce’ yet, then buy one using the link below, you WON’T be disappointed.
Review by Molly-Mole
Photography by Mimosa Photography