Saturday, August 14, 2010

Concert review: The English Beat at Double Door 8/13/10

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Photo by Susan Schomburg
At the Double Door last night, ska enthusiasts had a good show to watch but pretty miserable conditions to contend with. The last time I went to a show at the Double Door, it was December and the first big snow of the year was still coming down outside. I remember thinking it was pretty cold in the room, wishing that they'd turn the heat up a bit, and that I didn't wind up taking my coat off that night. Fast forward to a muggy day in mid-August, and the lack of climate control in the main room of the club was even worse. The room started out warm but tolerable, and during the course of the evening became so hot I felt like my brain was going to melt. In spite of that, I had a pretty good time, thanks primarily to the bands.

Bad Manners had a lot of energy, playing many ska favorites and covers of several 50s and 60s pop songs, which their supersized frontman, Buster Bloodvessel, encouraged the audience to sing along with him. Sporting a cheetah-print jacket and pants (until they came off mid-set to reveal black shorts), he bobbed and pivoted in time to the music, singing in a gruff, somewhat froggy voice. He was joined onstage by a pretty large band, including three-piece horn section and a guitarist who jumped around and run-danced while playing solos. The band got people up and dancing, perhaps a bit too frantically for the heat, but it was a fun set.

Between the sets by the two full bands, Chris Murray did a brief acoustic solo set with an amplified acoustic guitar. After the energy of the full band, it was a bit anticlimactic to have just one guy come on, but he played and sang well, and overall, it was probably a good move to have the large bands separated by something with a pretty different sound while still being in the same vein as the other acts. It gave variety to the evening, and although he seemed to have a bit of trouble holding the audience's attention in the heat (there's only so much attention a guy with an acoustic guitar can hold), he was certainly more entertaining than a long set change (the curse of the live show). He also joined The English Beat midway through their set.

In spite of the heat, headliners The English Beat were more than troopers. By the time the band hit the stage, the temperature in the club had already climbed to a pretty uncomfortable level, but they played through the heat, and sounded really good. Band leader Dave Wakeling was funny and charming in between songs, making jokes and understanding the audience's drop in activity (on more than one occasion, the crowd would start dancing, then fizzle out of energy mid-way through because of the heat) was because they were "dancing on the inside." One particularly classy move on Wakeling's part was giving one of his bottles of water to a person in the crowd, even though he looked like he needed it himself. Singer Antonee First Class entertained the crowd while the rest of the band recouperated a bit between songs, starting singing acappella and gradually being joined by the instruments as the song progressed in a particularly entertaining moment. Everybody in the audience was dripping with sweat, and if you were standing relatively close to the stage, you probably saw sweat spray off the band members as they moved to the music, especially Wakeling, whose guitars looked pretty soaked by the end of the evening. The band played their big hits, including "Save it for Later" and ending with "Mirror in the Bathroom" before coming on, at the audience's insistence, for a brief encore. Leaving large puddles of sweat on the stage's linoleum floor where they had been standing, if they can put on a show that good in conditions that hot and sticky, I can only imagine how much fun they'd be if you were comfortable enough to really get into it properly with the dancing their music calls for.

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