(Reviewed by Steve Sync)
It was a night all about two generations. Young and old would gather together to participate and party in appreciation for this timeless treat. The Beat are fronted by original member Ranking Roger, along with his son Ranking Junior who has been backing singing and ‘Toasting’ with the band for over 10 years.
I was accompanied (and driven) to the gig by my 20 year old daughter Paige, who has seen The Beat with me a couple of times before and has been brought up with the original band’s music played at home and on the family iPod on car journeys throughout her upbringing. Ranking Roger now the only original member of the band sings all original vocalist, (Dave Wakeling’s) main vocals while his son Ranking Junior sings all Ranking Roger’s original backing vocals and toasting……You got that?
The support band were already playing when we arrived. Three young lads suited up playing mainly Jam, Clash and Arctic Monkeys covers. They were very good to be fair. They played the songs very well and confidently for young lads. The ‘Cheeky Chappies’ kept the audience interested in between songs with their witty banter. Not sure what they were called or where they were from but if they’re supporting The Beat on the whole tour, it will be a great experience for them.
There were quite a few young faces in the venue tonight as well as Juniors, Paige’s and the support band, but as you’d expect for a gig like this, by the time The Beat took to the stage the place was packed full of middle aged 40-50 something folk out for a good time and to reminisce, myself included.
Ranking Roger greeted us and said they were going to start with their ‘Ska Wars’ themed song, ‘Return Of The Dread-I’. The band kicked off and we were given a glimpse of the quality of sound we were going to get this evening. Maybe not the best choice to start off with a song most people had never heard before but after they finished it, we gave a polite ripple of applause and all waited in anticipation for what the next track would be, hopefully something recognisable.
Ranking Roger walked back to the drum kit and had a little discussion with the other band members. To our delight, he turned and announced that we were just ‘Too Nice To Talk To’ which put motion and excitement in the crowd and started off their ‘Best Of’ extensive back catalogue set with one of their best tracks.
Paige and I first saw The Beat in the Tivoli in Buckley back in 2011. It was a cold Tuesday night as I recall and the band played to a poor turnout. They were good that night but we could tell some of the new faces in the band were still learning the songs and their sound wasn’t quite complete. Jump forward to 2014 and my son Tom, Paige and me saw them again at the ‘Leeds Mod and Ska Festival’. By now their sound was more complete. The band were much tighter and confident with the complex rhythms and melodies but you can never fully appreciate a bands sound at a festival due to the constant sound desk changes and festival PA systems.
Tonight, the sound was fantastic! Guitar, bass and drums played perfectly. I never saw the original line-up live but I’ve got recordings and I’d have to admit that the current sound is almost unnoticeably as good; even Ranking Rogers vocals mirror Dave Wakeling’s uncannily. The whole sound is held together by the lush saxophone, a massive part of the band’s sound. The current sax player does a very good job of recreating ‘Saxa’s’ original sax riffs.
The classics kept on coming – Hands Off She’s Mine, Save It For Later, Click Click, Best Friend, Tears Of A Clown, Get A Job, Jackpot, Two Swords. They even did a cover of The Clash’s Rock The Casbah. Other highlights were Whine And Grine, which blends into their famous Stand Down Margaret 1980 protest song and Rough Rider. By the time they came to the encores, there were only 2 obvious songs left to play. Ranking Full Stop got one of the loudest cheers of the night, but they saved the best til last. Mirror In The Bathroom kicked off with its frantic beat, chugging guitar and full on sax. It’s the band’s best known song and still an absolute classic! In the middle of the song, the band went off on a reggae/ska instrumental riff which had the whole room dancing. This riff transpired into a cover of The Police – The Beds Too Big Without You track which had Ranking Roger hitting those high ‘Sting’ vocal notes well. The track transformed itself gradually back into Mirror In The Bathroom again as they brought the song and their set to a climactic end. There were cries for more as you’d expect but that was our lot, and I was more than happy with the hour and 30 mins they gave us.
The last time I came to Chester Live Rooms was back in August to see (and review) Bad Manners. I said that night would be hard to beat (no pun) because of the atmosphere and the quality of the band, but The Beat were right up there with them on a scale of quality and performance. The Beat are on a nationwide tour and are playing countless festivals until the end of the summer. I would well recommend making the effort to see this very special band.