The English Beat perform live. (Photo by Jackie Butler)
For the rarely performed “Never You Done That” by General Public, Dave Wakeling whistled a fine tune throughout the song, impressing the sold-out room at City Winery DC with his melodious warble.
“Dave Wakeling is the last of the original ’80s singers to still do his own whistling!” declared toaster/ hypeman/ cool dude Antonee First Class when The English Beat wrapped the song toward the end of Tuesday night’s set. “Aha!” agreed Dave with his usual jaunty showmanship. “Sting doesn’t do his own whistling any more now, does he!”
Antonee responded, “Look out, Sting! We are coming for you!”
The earnestly droll stage banter was in fact one of the draws of The English Beat, who sell out venues across the nation despite a mighty touring schedule. They sold out City Winery DC on Nov. 15 in their second headlining show in the DC area in 2022, after selling out The Birchmere earlier in the year.
And on this rainy night, City Winery DC proved a wonderful place to catch a performance by Dave Wakeling and The English Beat. The city was drenched in cold rain, but the City Winery was lovely and warm, and the wine flowed nicely. The packed house, skewing toward Gen X and Boomers but including persons of all ages, felt like an old-time tavern and we weary travelers were thankful for the break from the weather. It was a perfect evening.
As great as it was to see The English Beat once again, I honestly cherished the General Public selection, lifted from the new wave band’s 1984 debut record, All The Rage. That same record spawned “Tenderness,” which Dave and the late Ranking Roger introduced to the world after they put the original incarnation of The English Beat on hiatus. Dave calls up “Tenderness” — thankfully! — almost every time he takes his Los Angeles-based Beat on the road these days, and did so early in the set on Tuesday, but the rest of the very good catalog of songs written by General Public tend to be ignored. So, “Never You Done That” was wonderful, and the band should maybe consider adding a few more of those tunes to their live act.
Watch the official music video for “Never You Done That” by General Public on YouTube:
Starting from the top of the show, people were eager to pop out of their seats and skank the night away to The English Beat and their potent mix of new wave, ska, reggae, post-punk, and other influences. The instantly recognizable hit “Save It for Later” got people dancing alongside their tables, in the aisles, and wherever else they could groove. It showcased the talents of Dave’s very good Beat band — in particular Matt Morrish on saxophone and Minh Quad on keyboards. (Antonee First Class introduced Minh as from Los Angeles, and the splendid keyboardist noted he grew up locally in Annandale, Virginia!)
Soon, The English Beat went into an extended mix of “Whine & Grine/ Stand Down Margaret,” which gave Dave an opening to quip about the special “winery and grinery” version of the song. Toward the end of the show, The English Beat played “Ranking Full Stop,” a very first single that declared The English Beat were here for dancefloor domination. At City Winery DC, the audience, already excited, could barely contain their enthusiasm for the number.
For “Ranking Full Stop,” Dave and Antonee First Class sang together quite well, and Antonee’s pleasing delivery in particular really made the moment pop. That song depended a lot on drummer Fritz Zar, who generated some smash power when the chorus called for it but also smoothed the way for its wonderful islander overtones.
The band moved right into Beat smash “Mirror in the Bathroom,” and everyone in the house was on their feet dancing the night away.
Watch the official music video for “Mirror in the Bathroom” by The English Beat on YouTube:
At the end of the set, Dave Wakeling bid us good night. Antonee First Class wrapped the evening with a version of his single, “Gimme Di Ska,” which was super fun and kept people loose in lieu of an encore. Antonee’s toasting and overall lyrical fluidity were in fine form, and the band really brought it home for the full house.
By the way, the band play at City Winery Boston tonight — followed by a show at City Winery Philadelphia and two shows at City Winery New York City.