Show Review: English Beat Brings Sweaty Ska Revival to the Duck Room

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Wakeling looks and sounds like a singer who is on the other side of middle age; he's a little more stout and his voice is a little more raspy, two changes from the floppy-haired blonde most of the show-goers grew up with. But he's also become a funny, relaxed front man, completely aware of the English Beat's status as a throwback party band. His band mates know how to play the part, too, but do so with precision and verve.

Bassist Wayne Lothian is the band's rhythmic soul, punctuating the intro to "Twist & Crawl" with appropriate plucks and slaps. Antonee First Class fills the vocal role originally created by Ranking Roger, offering more harmonies than reggae-based toasts and serving as something of a hype man. He aptly handled the lead on "Ranking Full Stop," which merged seamlessly into "Mirror in the Bathroom" toward the end of the set.

The straight-ahead ska songs were the heart of last night's show, but the airing of Wakeling's pop gems made the show memorable. The piano-pop melodrama of "I Confess" (from the band's swan song, Special Beat Service) was a treat, as was the similarly heart-on-sleeve "Never You Done That" (from Wakeling and Roger's post-Beat group General Public).

In the past few years, Wakeling has murmured about making new recordings with the band, and last night he performed a few new songs. From first listen, they maintain the high-energy ska sound of the first record, and last night the new ones fit alongside the old ones nicely.

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