LIVE REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2023.
THE BEAT / BOWWOWWOW / LONDON CALLING. The Roundhouse, 16/6/23. This was a bit of a strange line-up, but it certainly attracted a large audience. The Roundhouse was packed, if not actually sold-out, so there’s a buzzing atmosphere all evening. The opening band, London Calling, are a Clash tribute band and do the job pretty well, although I don’t really see the point of it. They added no quirk or character of their own to the music, so we might as well have had a DJ playing The Clash Greatest Hits over the PA. But I’m sure a lot of people enjoyed it. It’s not until Bowwowwow arrive onstage that I start to pay attention. This is the band I’m most interested in seeing tonight, even though only Annabella remains from the original band. First time I saw them, there were three original members and they were great. Next time, there were only two original members but they still sounded great… So what would they be like now? Well, I have to say, Annabella put on a really good show, dancing around the stage and providing a frenetic focal point for the audience. Her voice sounded good and she really seemed to be enjoying herself, while the band performed the songs almost perfectly. ‘C30, C60, C90, GO!’ was played second-song in the set and it really grabbed the audience’s attention, ensuring that everyone was either dancing or listening. As they weren’t playing a full-length set, they were able to pepper their hits and best-known songs throughout the set, which kept the fans very happy. ‘Louis Quatorze’ and ‘W.O.R.K’ sounded great and went down well, but the biggest cheer went out for ‘Go Wild in the Country’ halfway through the set, although a Bob Marley cover was a bit of an odd choice. Inevitably, ‘I Want Candy’ is their finale and gets a great response, although personally I didn’t think it was the best moment of the set. But Bowwowwow had returned and once again played an impressive set. Evidently they went down well on the whole tour, so perhaps we’ll get to see them play some of their own dates soon. Fingers-crossed, eh?
By the time The Beat are due onstage, the venue is really crammed and the audience is eager to see the band. The Beat originally enjoyed success between 1978-83, combining a punky version of ska along with reggae, soul and pop. Post-split, former members of the band enjoyed further success with their new groups, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals. However, in more recent times there have been two versions of the band, The English Beat, fronted by Dave Wakeling in America, and The Beat, fronted by Ranking Roger in the UK. Both remained popular, especially on the live circuit, but since the untimely loss of Ranking Roger in 2019, there has just been Dave Wakeling’s version of the band and, even though he is now the only original member, their popularity seems to go from strength to strength. This is the first time I’ve ever seen any version of the band and I was pretty impressed, firstly by how good the band, and particularly Dave Wakeling, sounded and secondly, just how many songs I recognised. I suppose as it’s so long since their original heyday, it becomes easy to forget just how many hit records they had, but hearing them altogether again, it really makes for an excellent party. ‘Twist & Crawl’, ‘Hands Off…She’s Mine’, ‘Too Nice to Talk To’, ‘Ranking Full Stop’, ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’… Undeniably, The Beat wrote and recorded some truly great music and the songs will still have you wanting to get up and dance. They still sound remarkably vital and fresh, just as pop music should. Inevitably, they finished the evening with their version of ‘Tears of a Clown’ and it was the perfect finale. It may have taken me more than three decades to see them, but I’ll certainly do my best to catch them again.