The English Beat Comes to Johnny D’s in Somerville, Jan 29

The English Beat in NYC, August 2010 / photo by Bryan Kremkau,, used with permission

About 6 years ago I was living in Tucson, AZ, going to shows at the Rialto and Hotel Congress. The hotel was having a Halloween Block Party of sorts with a few different stages of music, including a special outdoor stage on their back patio. There were a ton of bands playing, but the only one I wanted to see was The English Beat. I had a handful of questions that needed answering: when did they start playing again? Who was in the band these days? Who was still interested in seeing this band?

My greatest fear was that it was going to be the kind of situation where you see a nostalgia act at a county fair where they play for people who vaguely know a hit song and the audience drinks bud lights in lawn chairs. I was thankfully quite wrong. Dave Wakeling brings it. He’s got a great band behind him and ton of energy; nobody looks happier in the room than him. To be clear, don’t come expecting the same line up you saw on Top of the Pops. Wakeling has assembled a great crew of guys (I can’t find any info on whether or not there are any other original members). To the best of my knowledge, Ranking Rodger fronts a band of the same name in the UK, but from what I hear, the US version is the better of the two. I’ve now seen this band at least 5 or 6 times and they kill it every time. Antonee First Class is the resident MC/toaster and he really makes the show.

What I find striking every time I see them is the diversity of their audience. Like any other ska band that had a crossover hit, there’s a definite handful of people that come looking to hear one song. And of course since those hits were in the late 70s and early 80s, there’s a really great range in the ages of those at the show.

I’ve not yet been to Johnny D’s but from what I’m told it’s very intimate. So intimate, there’s seating. I can’t decide if that’s cool or antithetical to ska shows. (The problem with having chairs in shows is that people sit in them. Ska is dance music. See where I’m going with this?) In any case, here are the details.

The English Beat at Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
Tuesday, January 29, Doors 6pm, Show 8pm
$30  advance, $56.68 gets you tunes and a three-course meal.

Excuse me, what? Is this ska dinner theater? Don’t they advise against physical activity right after eating? I don’t get it. Also, $30 is kind of steep but I’m willing to pay a bit more for an intimate show (musicians gotta get paid!).

Here’s the band doing one of my favorites, “Hands Off She’s Mine” in Seattle with the current line up.

By the way, I love how the drummer has a 37-piece drum kit of which he uses three of those pieces. Here they are at Johnny D’s this last March playing “Rough Rider.” This clip gets me stoked for a real intimate show.