The Beat (Feat. Ranking Roger) & The Selecter Co-Headline Show | Review
Mandela Hall, Belfast • Friday 16 March ’18
By Stewart Robson • Photos: Marta Janiszewska
To be told that I was about to witness the resurrection of 2-tone was a big statement to be hit with, as the lights went down in Belfast’s Mandela Hall. The orator of this proclamation was one of the most recognisable voices in ska music history.
Pauline Black, the formidable and charismatic vocalist of The Selecter entered the stage and commanded the microphone to open the Northern Ireland edition of the band’s co-headline tour with ska revivalists, The Beat.
Without question, ska was one of the most important musical and cultural movements that’s ever swept across the country, having such a profound impact on so many people. The packed-out hall with revellers adorned in braces, Fred Perry polo-necks, Doc Martens and dyed hair (if they had any left), solidified this statement and the genre’s popularity.
Opening with the first track from their acclaimed debut album, ‘Too Much Pressure’, the band launched into ‘Three Minute Hero’. The crowd respond with ‘I wanna be’ when Black, along with original member and sharp-suited Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson plea for those precious 180 seconds. It’s a powerful opening with the band sounding tight with no energy lost since the band’s inception into the iconic movement.
The set doesn’t fall short of delving into the band’s back catalogue with the contrasting lyrics of ‘Missing Words’ bouncing against its pulsing ska beat. Black questions ‘I wonder if you ever did really care?’ This crowd cares and responds with more call and response than I’ve seen at a gig for a long time. The Selecter’s fans are a passionate bunch and the bobbing heads, arching backs and flailing hands cement the unified passion of the band and their admirers.
Newer tracks from last year’s ‘Daylight’ are performed with gusto and as much authenticity as their older repertoire. The stand-out ‘Frontline’ certainly retains its ska identity but bridges into a soulful, reggae-infused melody. The layered vocals from Black and ‘Gaps’ work superbly. Two saxophonists reside at the side of the stage, swaying hips while carrying the audience through its anthemic chorus. The title track, recorded with boogie-woogie’s godfather Jools Holland, is another highlight.
Ending with arguably their biggest hit, ‘Too Much Pressure’, which causes the masses at the venue’s bar to vacate and rush to nearer the stage, the band sign off in style with the knowledge that Belfast adores them.
With a half an hour break, which gives the slightly sweatier crowd a chance to grab a tipple, the layout doesn’t change much apart from The Beat’s backdrop now enveloping the back of the stage.
The Birmingham band have taken on two identities with Dave Wakeling taking his band, The English Beat, on tour in America while we are blessed to have stalwart Ranking Roger and his son perform the classics here. They are backed by another tight and professional line-up.
Ranking Junior brings life and a newness to their music. He’s full of just as much energy as his father, adding his skills as an MC to classics such as ‘Ranking Full Stop’. The crowd responds with an energised bop. ‘Are you ready to stop?’ questions Ranking Roger. The crowd responds with dance moves that can only presume they’re just getting started.
Exploding into classics such as ‘Too Nice To Talk To’ and ‘Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret’, The Beat retained the crowd that The Selecter drew in. The set never loses pace and the band are as energised as its leading men.
‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ of course gets the biggest reaction of the night. Taken from 1980’s ‘I Just Can’t Stop It’, the song has been a staple of the band’s career and sounds just as good as the original recording nearly 40 years ago. A superb moment from the set.
There was never a sense of either band trying to out-do each other during this show. This was certainly a collaborative effort on both parts to reinstate ska’s influence on society in 2018. It’s anything but dead. Going by the attitude of both bands and their fans, it might just be getting started.
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