The English Beat at The Palladium Times Square
It’s been a long three years – I think it’s been three years, it could be 300 – and while life is slowly moving back to something resembling normal, it’s been even slower for the six feet in front of concert stages. It has been so unusual to have photographers shooting at the Palladium Times Square that the security team didn’t initially know what to do when I approached with a photo pass. Twenty minutes later, I was finally let past the barrier to shoot my first show since 2019.
It’s hard to think of a band better suited for my first post-Covid review than The English Beat. The band always brings a level of enthusiasm that is mirrored by the crowd and this night was no different. Local Ska DJ, Ryan Midnight, prepped the crowd with an hour of upbeat music before Dave Wakeling led the band on stage to excited cheering.
The group, known to most of the world as simply, “The Beat”, was formed in the late 70’s as a part of the emerging ska scene. When Wakeling formed the band with Andy Cox, Ranking Roger Charlery, David Steele, Everette Morton and Saxa, Britain was in an economic and political upheaval and the music of the time reflected it. Ska offered an alternative to the aggressive, almost entirely White, punk scene. Unique in the way it fused Jamaican music with new wave and punk, Ska created music that was immensely danceable.
The Beat produced three successful records in the UK, but despite touring with high profile acts like The Police and David Bowie, they never really broke big in the US. It wasn’t until the band broke up that its members finally went on to see mainstream success in the States. David Steele and Andy Cox went on to form Fine Young Cannibals, while Wakeling and Charlery formed General Public.
By the end of the 90’s, both of those two bands had broken up for good. Eventually, Wakeling formed a new, US-based version of the original band and began touring over here as “The English Beat”. It’s been almost 50 years since the original band formed, but when the band hit the stage in New York, it was like no time had passed at all.
Dave Wakeling may be the only remaining member of the original Beat, but he has assembled an amazing group of musicians to complete the band. Antonee First Class did an amazing job not only as Toaster, but as the emcee of the show. Matt Morrish, on saxophone, was similarly vibrant as he hopped around stage and engaged with the audience.
The entire band poured through each classic song with incredible energy, keeping the crowd dancing non-stop. By the time the band got to the 1982 hit, “I Confess”, the floor was vibrating from the audience jumping and dancing along.
The band performed songs from all three Beat albums, along with “Tenderness” and “I’ll Be There” from the General Public years. By the time they ended the show with 1980’s “Jackpot”, everyone inside the Palladium looked exhausted, but still elated. The show had been the perfect reminder that life can be as much fun in 2023 as it was in the 1980s.