by James Nicholson.
Formed in 1978, The Beat are known as one of the most significant ska bands in the UK and have been at the forefront of the revival for more than 40 years. Despite the band featuring none of the original members, it is hard to believe it, watching them perform today as they dominated the stage and confidently delivered each song with ease. Fronted by Matthew Murphy, otherwise affectionately known as, Ranking Jr. the son of the late Ranking Roger who unfortunately passed in 2019, The Beat are back on tour throughout the UK, and they have come with a distinct energy and flair.
What first came to my attention when I stepped into the Old Fire Station on Friday night was the array of different ages that filled out the crowd. There were teenagers who could not have been too long out of school and an older crowd of ladies and gents who smiled from ear to ear watching them dance to an array of ska classics and covers. These covers came from support act The Decatonics whose 7-piece ska ensemble blasted through a collection of covers spanning The Specials, Martha and the Muffins, The Cranberries, The Selecter and Bad Manners. As these hits played out the crowd filled out and that aforementioned array of ages banded together to shout lyrics right back at the stage with an especially loud “one time, two time”.
Following the support, Ranking Jr. burst onto the stage immediately waking everyone back up onto their feet as they played a selection of classic hits and newer cuts, with the immediately recognisable drum and bass intro to ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ to start the night. They also did not shy away from a classic cover as they threw out their own rendition of Prince Buster’s ‘Rough Rider’ much to the appreciation of the crowd. Ranking’s vocal delivery and confidence on stage was key in making them a delight to watch, as he clearly utilised his own style and personality whilst honouring his late father’s legacy.
This legacy must not be understated, and the vocalist knew as much as he paid loving tribute to Ranking Roger as he explained his reasoning for taking up the frontman mantle. He stated that he promised to keep The Beat alive, allowing them to continue as he would carry the flag, leading to an equally reminiscent performance of the song of the same name. Following this, through rapid fast vocal delivery and a band that kept up the pace, the night was a fantastic throwback to an important era in UK music, with saxophone solos you could feel in your chest.
One final highlight of the evening was looking down at the barrier as The Beat commenced to see a group of teenage lads bopping around together singing alongside an older gent in his Harrington jacket and cherry red Doc Martens. It is moments like that, that define this musical movement and its importance even 40 years later.
You can go see The Beat on tour throughout the UK this year, including Southampton’s Engine Rooms – click here for more information.
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