Monday, 14 May 2007

I first discovered The English Beat way back when. The first CD of theirs I bought was I Just Can’t Stop It which I bought the day it came out. It was one of those times when I was looking for something new to listen to and a friend recommended some stuff called ska. Little did I know at the time how much I’d come back to it later in life. The current incarnation of the English Beat is Dave Wakeling with a band behind him. In the earlier days it included Rankin’ Roger who did some of the dancehall calls and other vocal duties. It was always fun music, sometimes with a message, and very dancable.

The Cabooze has actually been remodeled since the last time I was there. They used to have the one main bar, plus a second that wrapped around their walk-in cooler. The stage was pretty small, set at an angle and only about 20 feet from the corner of the main bar. If you were one of those that liked to be up front, it would often be a tight fit as everyone tried to jam into that small gap.

These days the stage has been expanded and the angle changed slightly to improve the space between it and the bar. They also removed the walk-in and relocated the wrap-around bar to the back wall instead. It has really increased the sightlines and there’s hardly a place in the club where you can’t see the stage.

I got there early and took up residence next to a support pillar about 20-25 feet from the stage. It proved to be plenty of room for the skankers and other dancers that come out for ska shows.

One other thing that surprised me was the age of the crowd. There were very few younger kids at the show and I’m thinking the average age of the audience was well into the late 20’s or early 30’s. It was kind of comforting, in a way, knowing that I wouldn’t have to deal with tons of kids out for “my first club night.”

The opening act was a Twin Cities local group called Chicken Poodle Soup. Yes, that’s right, Poodle. I read it three times myself just to make sure. They were a bunch of younger kids, not a single one old enough to drink, that did mostly original ska tunes, plus a couple covers. They were pretty good, but not so good that I felt and urge to buy their CD.

Finally Dave and the rest of the group came out and did about a 75 minute set plus a two-song encore. It was positively great, everything I hoped it would be. They did all my favorites, plus a couple General Public songs and some I had completely forgotten about. The set list went something like this: I Confess, Whine-n-Grine, Hands Off… She’s Mine, Best Friend, Ackee 1-2-3, Doors of Your Heart, Tears of a Clown, Twist-n-Crawl, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, Rough Rider, Two Swords, Never You Done That†, Tenderness†, Full Stop, Mirror In the Bathroom, Click Click, Never Die, and Save It For Later for the main set with End of the Party and Jackpot for the encore.

I forget which song it was, but Dave made an announcement that they were collecting money for a charity called Smile Train. The group works to help kids with cleft palates so they can live normal lives. People were encouraged to toss money onto the stage which gets gathered up and sent on to the charity. It only costs $250 per kid to save their smiles and often their lives. After the show I learned that someone from Target corporate had donated $900 (probably $1000, but by the time they gathered up the money it’s possible one bill got separated from the others). All-in-all Dave said they had collected more money at this one show than at any other he could remember.

How do I know this? Well, it’s because I hung around the bar after the show was over. It’s something I normally do in an effort to get autographs and maybe pictures with the band. This time it really paid off. For sticking around I was rewarded with access to the green room and the chance to sit and talk with Dave for a good 30-45 minutes after the show. I was there with a couple other fans, but it was totally cool. Dave is the nicest guy in the world and was more than willing to sign all three CD liners I had brought with me as well as sit for a picture. We sat and talked music, art, movies, life as a touring musician, and who knows what else. He was so cool and engaging that I didn’t choke up like I do with most musicians.

I even got to ask if he kept in touch with Roger and if there was a chance he’d come out on the road for a more thorough and true English Beat. Sadly, that doesn’t seem likely, but Dave did mention that the right people were talking to possibly get Pato Benton back with the group. I hope it happens, that would be a show I’d really like to see.

Once I finally left the club at about 2:30am I was on top of the world. I don’t usually get the opportunity to sit and talk with people from bands of which I’ve been such a long time fan. I’m going to remember this one for a long time to come.

† General Public song.

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