The Beat, The Jam House, Birmingham

Ska stars turn back the clock

For the last three years, The Beat have been back together and playing regular gigs around the Midlands. In 1979, they became a key part of the Two Tone movement, combining vintage reggae music with punky pop. Now this old Birmingham band is sharpened once more into a fighting force, actively seeking a new recording contract and clearly ready for some more high-profile touring.

This is The Beat as fronted by the ever-youthful Rankin' Roger, but missing the original band's other main contender, Dave Wakeling, who had also helped form General Public in the early Eighties. Other off-shoots have included International Beat and Special Beat.

The Jam House is co-owned by Jools Holland, and has turned into something of an underground venue in recent years. Gigs often seem to happen here on a word-of-mouth basis, but this hasn't prevented a crush on the dancefloor tonight. The Beat are on home territory, confronted by a loyal and bullish crowd who are intent on dancing hard and getting beer in their hair.

Few performers can match the vigour of Rankin' Roger as he proceeds to jog on the spot for the next 90 minutes. Not even his son, Matthew Murphy, the co-vocalist now re-christened as Rankin' Junior. The duo are draped in matching black jackets, splashed with horizontal white drips, but these are soon ditched as the sweat begins to flow.

The Beat don't dawdle, as they open with "Tears of a Clown", one of their biggest hits. At first, for this Smokey Robinson cover, everything's too loud, distorting wildly and muffled by bass. Then, the mix settles down, and the Rankin' vocals spring forth more clearly. Drummer Everett Morton and keyboardist Dave Blockhead are both original Beat members, and they're joined by guitarist Neil Deathridge, who has worked with Roger on his two solo albums. Morton is another age-defier, playing drum patterns that are as precise as they are hyperactive. Sometimes he rolls with a dubby spaciousness, but mostly he's relaying tight whip-crack fills, ruthlessly driving the band with his springy stepping.

Mark Hamilton replaces the almost-retired Saxa on saxophone and Andy Pearson handles the bass. Mark is the son of jazz tenorman Andy Hamilton, the godfather of Birmingham's jazz scene. His solos are flooded with an endless ballroom reverb, and his rhythm honks sit well beside Rankin' Junior's huffing train-engine noises. Both father and son are blessed with a high-speed ska stutter that effectively provides The Beat with two extra percussionists, each acting as backing vocalist when the other takes the lead.

The set is weighted towards classic numbers, acting as a powerful reminder of just how many of these songs have remained ingrained in the minds of fans for more than two decades. "Mirror in the Bathroom", "Hands Off, She's Mine" and "Stand Down Margaret" shoot past, but The Beat have also been penning newer material which stands a good chance of joining the established ranks. "Roller Blades" is one of these, veering to-wards their more rocking of incarnations. As the Rankins sing "Rough Rider", it's amusing to witness the unusual instance of a father and son sharing in and savouring a song's high sexual innuendo.

As a tribute to Joe Strummer, they also cover "Rock the Casbah", and with an encore imminent, the unruly crowd ponders which of the band's classics can possibly remain. "Ranking Full Stop" is one of The Beat's best tunes, but not an obvious choice, while "Save It For Later" is surely their most naggingly melodic outing.

Rankin' Roger and Rankin' Junior bound around the stage like men possessed, sacrificing themselves solely to the pursuit of sincerely unaffected good times

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices