The English Beat

The English Beat & Dave Wakeling

Special Brew/Dilip N The Davs

The Rosemount Hotel

Friday, May 23, 2014

It has been 34 years since music writer Sylvia Simmonds saw a young band named The English Beat in Los Angeles and noted their “…rhythm was spot on, the singing perfect and the sound so good it almost melted the speakers.” It was 1980 and the band were supporting Talking Heads off the back of their debut album, I Just Can’t Stop It. Fast-forward to last weekend when the band (consisting of one original member – lead Dave Wakeling –  and five others) performed the last gig of their brief Australian tour. They’re playing those songs that almost made the speakers melt in an American theatre all those years ago – and they’re playing them well.

It had all the prerequisites for a good night of live music: cold night, cosy atmosphere and a good number of punters indoors for Dilip N The Davs who warmed the room with a fun mix of reggae, funk and ska. I walked in to hear frontman Dilip Parekh proclaiming the next song was about “…nine days without vodka” – one from their album, Together. Dav member Andrew Pring played the melodica, which is something you don’t see every day. Shortly after, the group by the bar wearing the coordinated checked clothing (a dead giveaway) moved from the crowd to the stage. Special Brew supported The English Beat on their last Perth gig in 2012; this year nine of them were squeezed onto the Rosemount stage. They dove into high-spirited Bad Manners-inspired ska before vocalist Magnus Danger Magnus joined and punctuated each song with some entertaining dance moves and jazz hands. Magnus noted very seriously that the band had one political song – Vegemite – which is about the Australian food icon being US-owned.

A delayed start lead to whistling and whooping to encourage the headliners onstage so by the time Wakeling walked on and yelled “Rough Rider!” the room was buzzing. Most importantly, everyone was having a jolly good time; there were more people dancing than I’ve seen at gigs played and frequented by young twenty-somethings. There were a lot of British voices to be heard, which is a turn out you expect for a band founded in Birmingham at a pivotal time for music and social change in the UK. Wakeling later quipped in a strong brummy accent that “Birmingham is a lovely place…to come from!” He was constantly talking and cracking jokes between songs.

For the past week students all over Australia have been protesting the budget so it was fitting to hear Stand Down Margaret – a song of political dissent for the Thatcher government. As Wakeling pointed out, it could easily be adapted to Stand Down Tony. The lengthy set ran through much of their catalogue including Mirror In The Bathroom, Hands Off… She’s Mine, Too Nice To Talk To, Click Click and I Confess. Matt Morrish’s saxophone solos were lovely as was their cover of Andy Williams’ Can’t Get Used To Losing You, which inspired a karaoke session. “That was a nice sing-a-long there,” Wakeling remarked afterwards.