After dropping three records in the early part of the ’80s — “I Just Can’t Stop It,” “Wha’ppen” and “Special Beat Service” — and the two-tone ska legends The English Beat, formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, broke up in 1983. (Small note of clarification, the band is called The Beat in England and The English Beat over here.)
CHECK OUT Dave Wakeling’s FACEBOOK live in our Newsroom !
Out of that Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger formed General Public and dropped the record “All the Rage” in 1984, home to the always delightful “Tenderness.”
But getting back to The English Beat, I was too young to see the band back in its heyday but became a fan of their music later on and was among the many who shouted with glee when a tour brought the reformed English Beat to Portland about five years ago.
For many of us at Port City Music Hall, it was the first time seeing The English Beat live, and it was spectacular. The band’s been coming back about once a year ever since, and its shows are fun fests, featuring all of the songs that made The English Beat famous in the first place. These include “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Twist & Crawl,” “I Confess” and “Save It For Later.”
I’m also quite fond of a cover of a song first made famous by Andy Williams in the ’60s. The English Beat’s take on “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” was the first version I ever heard, and the ska spin on it is pure magic.
“There’s no use in hangin’ ’round/guess I’ll get dressed and do the town/I’ll find a crowded avenue/Though it will be empty without you.” Heck yes.
The English Beat is not a nostalgia act. In fact, word from its camp is that the band will be releasing an album of all new material in February called “Here We Go Love.” It will be the first in more than three decades, and I have a strong feeling it will be worth the wait.
I confirmed with Wakeling that the band will be playing some of these songs at the Portland show, so if you’re a new fan or an old one, you won’t want to miss it. These days, Wakeling lives in California and plays with a different line-up than the early days, and Rankin’ Roger’s got his own thing going on in England with The Beat, but rest assured, Wakeling sounds as good as ever and The English Beat has held onto the sound that made the band famous in the first place.
Then there’s the opening act. Zeme Libre. You’ll want to get there on time to see this act, because it’ll do more than get you warmed up for The English Beat; it’ll knock your socks clear off your feet.
Zeme Libre plays a kinetic fusion of Afrobeat, reggae, ska and funk. The band is based here in Maine, but the members come from all over the country and have played and shared stages with Michael Franti and Spearhead, Bim Skala Bim, De La Soul, Toots and the Maytals, Black Uhuru and several others.
Zeme Libre’s latest release is the seven-song “NEA 99942.” Ever curious, I reached out to band member David Butts to find out what the heck the album title means. Ready for this? NEA 99942 is otherwise known as Apophis, and it’s an Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) being studied by NASA. Butts explained that there was major concern for it potentially hitting us (meaning earth) a few years back, and it is still being studied. What’s more, Apophis is the name of an enemy of the Ancient Egyptian sun god Ra.
There’s more to it, but that’s the gist, and now I’m wishing I hadn’t seen “Armageddon” and not just because of the cheesy Aerosmith song. I digress.
The seven songs on “NEA 99942” are scintillating, dance-inducing tunes with Andrew Yankowsky on lead vocals, Phil Mantis on bass, Tim Washburn on guitar and vocals, David Butts on keys, horns and vocals and Andy Porta on drums and vocals. The title track has an outer-space vibe to it, which makes sense given what we know about its meaning.
It’s 38 seconds of perfection that leads into “Jungle,” a song that I’m sure hoping they play at the Port City show (hint hint), because it starts out fast and frenzied then slows down into a bouncy pace only to pick back up again and twirl you around the room before chilling out again. Its the song that keeps on giving and just when you think its reached its zenith in come the horns. Get a preview at www.zemelibre.com and find the band on Facebook.
Check out this live version of “Jungle” recorded at The Portland House of Music in December.
8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7. Port City Music Hall, Portland, $25 in advance, $30 day of show, $40 preferred seating. portcitymusichall.com