Reggae, Big Band, and Ska — Oh My!

The English Beat and Other Rude Boys at the Middle East

The English Beat

Sept. 13, 2007

The Middle East

Two-tone era ska legend Dave Wakeling and the current rendition of touring band The English Beat headlined a horns extravaganza at The Middle East Downstairs concert venue last Thursday night. With exceptional reggae bands Destroy Babylon and Pressure Cooker opening the show, this was not a night to miss for any lovers of the genre.

Four-piece reggae group Destroy Babylon opened up the night with a much louder, harder sound than is usually associated with the genre. It did not surprise me when I discovered vocalist / guitarist / horn player John Beaudette and drummer Marc Beaudette were twins because the band stayed coordinated during very complicated pauses without ever missing a beat. They are definitely worth seeing live, and will be back at the Middle East on the eighth of October.

The night continued with nine-piece Boston reggae ensemble Pressure Cooker whose impressive horn trifecta gave them an old school big band feel with a new school ska twist. Lead vocalist Craig Fujita’s style and energy coupled with the raw talent of the rest of the band came together nicely to make for a fun live performance. The entire club started dancing soon after Pressure Cooker’s set started and only stopped when they finished.

The entire house erupted in excitement when The English Beat, the band they’d all come to see, finally took the stage, and it didn’t take long for the band to prove that the crowd’s excitement was well warranted. With over 25 years of stage experience behind him, lead man and ’80s ska legend Dave Wakeling has shown barely any signs of aging. He was fully energetic and led the band through a more than impressive two-and-a-half hour set. Their performance had many high points, but particularly notable was their remarkable performance of “Can’t Get Over Losing You,” which they dedicated to recently deceased ska icon Desmond Decker.

All three performances made for a very enjoyable night, and I can only hope that such impressive ska shows come by The Middle East more often.