"Save it for later. You run away and let me down.' -- The English Beat, "Save it for Later."
The classic English Beat lyric was indicative of a fine performance January in New Jersey. The British ska band saved its best songs for later in the performance, which contained few letdowns.
After a lengthy period of no performance and crappy selections from the disc jockey, opening act Professor Plum took the stage. The local ska band, now with four horns, gave a mighty performance of fast-paced ska from its repertoire. Each musician was clearly not learning his or her instrument but was comfortable with it and used its mighty powers to warm up the crowd.
The solid performance clearly did warm up the crowd. Professor Plum left the stage, but they will surely go on to give more solid performances that warm up future crowds at their shows. The English Beat have been pleasing crowds of ska and new wave fans for years, so anticipation was high.
The Tradewinds crowd was comprised almost entirely of the over-27 set who mainly seemed interested in hearing a band they loved in their youth. The popularity the band currently enjoys among today's ska enthusiast seemed nonexistent at the venue, with few individuals of the younger variety. The older individuals drowned out the disc jockey's unfamiliar choices with the firewater specials that evening, making for some goofy dancing and skanking by the crowd, but while the crowd may have been goofy, they were enjoying every bit of it.
After a goofy introduction by a pair of local radio personalities, The English Beat took the stage to massive applause. Original vocalist Dave Wakeling truly made the performance what it was. His signature croon endured over decades, bringing songs to life, instead of wishing they were dead, or sounding like Wakeling was about to die himself, for that matter. Vivaciousness characterized the performance instead. Every note was hit by our famous vocalist, though not by the eager crowd who sang along as true fans do, off-key.
While no Saxa or Rankin' Roger was there to perform, the members who did take the stage were impressive in their musical prowess. Each was a unique personality of the performance, and each member was clearly having the time of his life. The whole band exuded happiness, playing and singing with intense emotion, and just an overall intensity.
The English Beat certainly have a repertoire of its own, but with many members forming bands of their own, including Dave Wakeling with his General Public and solo projects, one might expect songs other than the English Beat kind to be performed. Yet, the performance was exclusively English Beat songs. Classic originals such as "Mirror in the Bathroom," "I Confess" and "Hands Off She's Mine" brought the past to the present, with a sound that a date can be placed on, but was not at all dated. Instead songs like "Tenderness" and "Rankin' Full Stop" were fresh and contained no preservatives. Even the band's signature cover songs, such as "Tears of a Clown," amazed.
What was particularly amazing for myself was the band's climatic performance of "Save it for Later," in my opinion the best English Beat song ever. As the evening sped by, I feared the band might not even play it. Saving the song for last made an obvious pun, but was also the perfect ending to the show. The song was played with impeccable accuracy and nearly put the audience in a musical ecstasy. Well, maybe not the whole audience, but I can safely say it was the highlight of my evening. The evening had many highlights, however, including an encore jam, overall making an unforgettable show by the influential band.
Sometimes, when an old band comes around, disappointment seems inevitable: they are old, not the same lineup, just looking for money, it may seem. Not so with The English Beat that evening. No matter what the age, The English Beat have got what their band's name implies it has.
Catherine Galioto is Staff Columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.