On a roasting hot Friday night I expected the Academy to be like an incinerator. However one good thing about the new Academy is its lovely cool air conditioning, which made it a hell of a lot more
comfortable having a beer and waiting for The Beat to arrive.
There are two versions of The Beat operative, both with original members. The American version is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Dave Wakeling (and is confusingly named The English Beat in the US due to copyright issues with another band in the States) while the UK version is headed by original vocalist/toaster Ranking Roger and also includes original drummer Everett Morton. It’s a testament to the popularity of the songs of The Beat that two bands can tour regularly to enthusiastic crowds playing much of the same material.
Ranking Roger arrives on stage in flowing robes and the other members of the band assemble. Much of the between song banter is drowned out by enthusiastic chants of “Ruuuude Boooy”. This recent reincarnation of The Beat also sees Ranking bring out his son, Ranking Junior, for dual vocal duties. Junior turns out to be a pretty amazing rapper/toaster and gets his own track where Ranking
Senior gets on the drums and pounds out the rhythm while he spits at breakneck speed over the top with hardly a breath from start to finish. They also play a couple of new tracks from recent albums.
However it’s the classics from their first album ‘I Just Can’t Stop It’ that the crowd really lap up. They play ‘Rough Rider’ fairly early on which gets the crowd skanking crazy. ‘Stand Down Margaret’ gets a big sing along reaction. Continuing in Tory bashing mode, Ranking dedicates ‘Get A Job’ to David Cameron. I think it maybe took a few songs for the band to hit their stride but once they find it there’s no stopping them.
The band seems like a vital and fresh unit notwithstanding the fact that they’ve not long celebrated their thirtieth anniversary. It is revealed during the band member introductions that drummer Everett Morton is now sixty years old. When I thought about the stamina needed to drum for a band like The Beat on night after night of a tour and how thunderously heavy and tight the drums were, that revelation really took my breath away. Ranking still gets screams from the ladies as he tears off his t shirt to reveal a pretty buff frame.
They throw in a cover of The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’, dedicated to ‘the original Rude Boy, Joe Strummer’, and then end with the most well known Beat track, ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’. The dark and heavy bassline and nihilistic lyrics instantly catch you and show off this band at their most inventive.
Ranking tells the crowd how ‘this song had its genesis in Birmingham and has now gone around the world’ which gets a massive cheer. And then they’re off into the night, a brilliant example of a piece of internationally popular but Birmingham born music.
Review – Adam Moffatt
Photos – Katja Ogrin