The English Beat Rocksteady At The Coach House

Dave Wakeling, The English Beat

Dave Wakeling, The English Beat; photo Jackie Butler

“There’s a new dance called the tolerance,” Dave Wakeling sings in the English Beat classic “Sole Salvation,” which he played toward the end of their set at the sold-out Coach House last Saturday night. The relevance of his words were not lost on the audience who responded with a roar of approval. After an election so venomous and so polarizing, and probably more than a few Thanksgivings spent arguing, an evening full of feel-good hits like “Save It For Later,” “Hands Off She’s Mine,” and “Too Nice To Talk To” provided a much-needed escape.

Whether you call it, Ska, Rocksteady, or just plain Reggae, there’s something about its syncopated rhythms and breezy vamping that melts everything else away. Add an invigorating jolt of punk energy and attitude like the Beat did, and you’ve got music made for dancing. Wakeling and the rest of the band put on such a good show, that the Coach House clears out some of its signature tables for a designated dancing area. It was put to good use during favorites like “Twist & Crawl,” “I’ll Take You There,” and the one-two punch of “Ranking Full Stop” and “Mirror In The Bathroom.”

Though Wakeling is the only original member, his beautifully diverse band reflects the message of unity and love that the Beat and the reggae genre have come to represent. Besides that, these guys can play. In their matching Ska polos, they proved a formidable force, from the raging sax solos on “Hands Off,” and “Wine And Grine/Stand Down Margaret,” to the unstoppable groove provided by the dual keyboardists, to the off-the-charts energy of Wakeling’s young toaster. Obviously Ranking Roger can’t be replaced, but this new guy’s a charmer, pulling a less-than-amused little girl on stage during “Hands Off,” and a much more amused middle-aged man after he wouldn’t stop requesting “Ackee 1-2-3.”

As for Mr. Wakeling, he sounds exactly the same, his honeyed, crooner vocals surprisingly intact. He cuts quite the figure with his signature teardrop guitar and his goofy mugging, clearly having a great time on stage. The crowd was even treated to a couple of new tracks off an album set to be released next year, as well as the rest of their favorites like “Tears Of A Clown,” before which Wakeling joked, “It’s not a party until you’ve ruined a perfectly good Motown song…Sorry Smokey!”

The highlight of the night proved to be “Tenderness” which Wakeling actually recorded with General Public, not the Beat—not that anyone cared. An adorable little girl and her mother were pulled up on stage, and everyone was on their feet. No one in that whole room was thinking about anything other than the good time they were having, and everyone left feeling a whole lot lighter.

Where is the tenderness? Go and see The English Beat and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it.