The English Beat @ Turner Hall, Sunday, Feb. 16

Posted on February 18, 2008 by


Before the English Beat came onstage, a roadie set big, full-sized towels down onstage, one for each band member. I thought that was a little odd — why towels? Why not little tissue holders?

I love Dave Wakeling’s bands — English Beat and General Public were bands I grew up listening to, but I didn’t know in what context to watch the English Beat. It wasn’t an oh-my-god they’re back together show, but neither was it like watching the Gin Blossoms perform at a state fair.

They started with the good ones — “Stand Up Margaret,” “I Confess,” ‘Hands Off, She’s Mine.” It took three songs to get both the band and the crowd worked up, and then everything after that was a mad skanking party. From “Twist and Crawl,” to the Smokey Robinson cover “Tears of a Clown,” to “ Two Bleeding Swords” and Rough Rider, everyone freaked out and did skaerobics on the Turner Hall dance floor non-stop.

From the balcony of the venue I could see everyone bopping up and down in unison. It was pretty magnificent to see the crowd super-psyched, and having so much fun.

Even though it was terribly cold, the whole motley crowd — older folks who listened to the Beat when it first came out, teenagers who skanked to it with their parents, and everything in between — was still set on having fun.

This was especially true for founder Dave Wakeling. He’s old and a little pudgy, but his voice still carries a super-sweet charm, and his energy throughout the show didn’t wane. Neither did anyeone else’s in the band, which explained the giant towels. Apparently they needed to mop up all the sweat generated from their crazy energy. (Oh, and Wakeling gave props to Obama onstange.)

The only bummer about the show was that ska generally has such a tight sound, that didn’t really fit with Turner Hall’s acoustics. I could hear everything — the sax, the drums, the toasting — bouncing off the walls and giving the songs some extra reverb.

Still, it was a privilege to see the English Beat live. One of my best friends, Annette Ortiz, plays the drums for ska band Half Past Two. And every time I hear ska music, I think of her. Even though  the English Beat was around 20 years before she was even in a band, when she was still in knee socks and pigtails, I was still thinking of her while watching the whole dance miracle going on around me, and how we used to pogo around dancefloors at shows.

When you grow up with these songs, they’re part of your subconscious. Same with the dances — one leg hiked up, then the other, arms churning as if in a race , in 360 bpm — all this is made up of movement that instinctively comes back whenever you pull them out. I did a little skanking by the stage, in the dark where no one could see me.  So thank God for the English Beat. When I got home, I needed a towel to wipe off all that sweat.