The English Beat w/ The Mad Professor• April 29, 2022• The Commonwealth Room
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
There are times when I’ll see a concert on the calendar and know without any doubt that it’ll be a good time. That’s exactly how it was when I saw The English Beat on the schedule. I grew up with The Englis Beat, or The Beat, as they’re known in England being played on early MTV and on my brother’s record player. The songs are so familiar and always take me back to that young time in my life. As I’ve aged, (boy have I aged!) I’ve been able to appreciate the music more and more. They were one of the major bands of the ska music revival in England and a huge player in the New Wave, Post Punk generation.
The English Beat has a dedicated fan base here in Utah. They’ve played everywhere from Red Butte Gardens to the Complex to Soda Row in Daybreak. Their shows are always well attended and the crowd is always a lively bunch.
The Mad Professor
Before The English Beat took the stage, a legend in dub music, The Mad Professor entertained the crowd. I must admit I was not familiar with The Mad Professor. In fact, when I was waiting for him to come out, I asked around if others were familiar. Some said they knew the name, others weren’t too sure. But there was a contingent of fans who were embarrassed for me that I didn’t know him. They told me that the main reason they came to the show was for him. I later did some research and realized his impact on dub, and reggae music.
The Mad Professor was very entertaining. Consistently using an autotune effect on the mic he would make jokes with the audience. Joking that he would give away CDs and vinyls if any women would come on stage and dance naked. He told the crowd that the stage could be a lonely place without a singer. He brought up a few fans to sing with him. One man went up and knew the song, but others were not quite familiar. He gave them parting gifts of CDs and records.
It seemed like the crowd fell into a similar category as me in not being super familiar with The Mad Professors’ work. However, they were very appreciative of his style and sense of humor. At the end of his set, he would play a beat and see if the crowd could guess the song. If they did, he would throw out more merch. It was a fun game but my feeling is the crowd got a little restless. I think they were very excited for The English Beat to come out, and The Mad Professor ran a little long.
The English Beat
When I first arrived inside The Commonwealth Room there was plenty of space to find a spot. I didn’t feel like I was there all that early so it surprised me that there was so much room. But by the time The English Beat walked out on stage, the place was totally packed! There was a party atmosphere and people were so ready to be taken back to the 80s. They were not disappointed. The show opened with “Rough Rider”. The audience was instantly swaying to the breezy groove.
My first impression was how good lead singer and only original member of The Beat, Dave Wakeling sounded. He seemed in such good spirits. Prior to the band walking on stage he stuck his head out to see if the crowd was ready. That elevated their excitement instantly. They kept the energy flowing with “Hands Off…She’s Mine” and “Twist and Crawl”. The band’s toaster, Antonee First Class addressed the crowd. He told us we were getting two for the price of one at this show. He told us we were not only getting an English Beat concert but a General Public show as well.
For those unaware, Dave Wakeling and original toaster for The Beat, Ranking Roger (RIP), were also in a band called General Public in the 80s. Must be nice to have two huge bands in the same decade! With Antonee First Class’ proclamation, the band broke into “Tenderness”. A great, great General Public song. Before moving on to the next song, Antonee First Class joked that by looking in the crowd he could see how many babies were made to these songs.
The pinnacle moment of the night came midway through the show. At least for me. Wakeling asked the crowd ”How many of you remember the 80s?”. Of course, the majority inside The Commonwealth Room roared. He then mentioned that he was recently daydreaming about the 80s. That followed with the intro to “Save it For Later”. I absolutely love that song! Every time I hear it my spirits are lifted. I remember being in a movie theater watching Spider-man “Homecoming” when that song came on. I recall audibly saying, “Yes!”. Which was then followed by embarrassment because I never talk in movies and people looked at me surprised.
What can I say, it’s a great song, and it was perfectly placed in that movie, and it was a huge moment in this concert. I was a little surprised to hear it played so early, but I think it could have been the first song and people would have lost their minds just as much as they did when it was played.
What I was really surprised by was just how crazy the crowd got. This isn’t to put anyone down, but if you were a fan of The English Beat when these songs were released, you are most likely in your 50s or 60s. Generally, at a concert with that demographic, most people aren’t getting too wild. But during “Save it For Later” the whole venue was dancing and singing as if everyone was in their 20s or 30s. It was invigorating. At the end of the song, Dave Wakeling said, “For a minute there I thought I could remember the 80s!”.
The Commonwealth Room
I really enjoy seeing shows at The Commonwealth Room. It’s a great small venue that doesn’t feel compact. It’s open, the stage is big, the floor feels bigger than it is, and the sound is good. The one thing I don’t get about that place is it’s so dark! Meaning the lighting on the stage seems so dark. It’s really difficult to see the faces of the band. And if we can their usually in blue or red lights. I’ve been to so many shows there and rarely am I are the lights are bright enough.
As a photographer that’s tough. But I’m not even talking about that. Because I’m not expecting a venue or band to change the lighting to fit my needs as press. I’m purely talking from a fan’s viewpoint. Even Antonee First Class asked them to turn the lights up. And when they did, he asked for more. I’m not sure what the reason is, but I really think it needs to be addressed. Love, love, love The Commonwealth Room. That’s my only issue with the place. Ok, rant over.
Following “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, Wakeling jokingly asked, “Do you know how hard it is to whistle with a broken heart and less than half a liver left?” The show went on at a high level with songs like, “Too Nice To Talk To”, and “Doors of Your Heart”. It was fun to see couples and friends dancing together. I noticed some people who were strangers walking into The Commonwealth Room becoming very friendly due to the fun nature of the music. There were only good vibes in the room and everyone seemed so happy.
Dave Wakeling thanked everyone several times for being patient and that it was great to be back performing. He shared that pre-pandemic people would always say to him that the three most important things are Health, Family, and Friends. “How much more true is that now” he stated. When he expressed gratitude for things opening back up he followed with “They let us out just in time for World War Three!”.
The night ended with another English Beat classic, “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Jackpot”. The band played on as Wakeling departed. Before leaving he said, “Thank you for coming. Thanks even more for staying!”. The crowd danced away as the band continued. Hoping that there was more music to be played. Eventually Antonee First Class departed as did the rest of the band and we knew the night was over.
I didn’t think about it until the ride home, but I was surprised “I Confess” and “Tears of a Clown” were left off the setlist. I guess not realizing it in real-time tells me that the show was so good I didn’t notice until I broke it down later. It was a really fun night for fans of The E