With high profile reformations of several Two Tone bands in recent years, it seems the genre is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. The Beat, whilst never reaching the heights of peers such as Madness and The Specials, were a key part of the movement; enjoying success with a string of singles in the early 80s. Original vocalist Ranking Roger, alongside his son Ranking Jr and a newly recruited band have been a regular feature on the festival circuit since 2005.
Descending into the cavernous Duchess, amidst the middle aged rudeboys in Doc Marten’s and braces, fans were hit by the rich horn lines of opening act The Prawnskas. Eleven members strong, this quirkily named local act tried in vain to get the crowd moving but you couldn’t fault them for effort. Main support act The Talks had more success; their blend of bouncy ska, punkier numbers and occasional rapping definitely impressed – drawing a much louder response from the slowly building crowd. By the time Ranking Roger et al launched into anti-Thatcher anthem Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret the venue was heaving.
Considering The Beat haven’t put out a studio album in 30 years, this could have easily been a greatest hits set; however Ranking Jr breathed new life into numerous tracks as his role shifted from backing singer to MC and he embellished the classics with slick rap interludes. Far from sounding contrived, these fitted seamlessly, garnering cheers from the crowd. Throughout, the two frontmen never stopped moving with synchronised skanking routines for every instrumental break.
The audience were treated to several seemingly-improvised, extended versions of songs; with elaborate drum solos, intricate walking bass lines at running speed and sax solos worthy of the cheesiest 80s ballads. A lengthy rendition of classic ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ really showcased the talents and tightness of the band.
Between tracks Ranking Roger expounded on love and unity, jibed at David Cameron and gave shout-outs to the rudeboys. It was a show as stereotypical as they come but that didn’t matter at all to the crowd; in that room it was 1979 again and they belted out every word. Undeniably fun and still bursting with energy, The Beat goes on.By Karl Bos