It’s hard to know what to expect from The Beat given that this is one of three versions currently on the live circuit and Ranking Roger is the only original member.
Reservations about the outfit are nonetheless quickly dispelled by a rousing set that does justice to their legacy as one of the major outfits on the 2-Tone scene. Contemporaries of The Specials and The Selecter they helped to bring multi-racial, political music that blended ska, pop, and punk to the mainstream in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
It’s a socio-political edge that the Birmingham six-piece continue to champion throughout the set, with a well chosen selection of original tracks and cover versions from their back catalogue that acknowledge their varied musical influences (‘Rock The Casbah’ dedicated to “original rude boy Joe Strummer”).
Roger’s stage banter also demonstrates their commitment to modern politics, gaining a huge cheer when he dedicates ‘Get A Job’ to David Cameron and flashing the peace sign to support the band’s enduring message of love and unity.
Amid this continuity there are also signs of change that are primarily due to the addition of Roger’s son on second vocals, who replaces founder member and former lead singer Dave Wakeling. A less laid back toaster than his father, he brings a slightly harder edge with the machine gun rapping on ‘How Do You Do’.
It’s their ability to hold down a driving groove, however, that ensures they remain a captivating live act. ‘Hands Off She’s Mine’, with its bittersweet dancehall sound, is solid gold pop while ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ is torn apart, reconfigured, stretched out to breaking point yet still maintains its rhythmic infectiousness.
This is boosted by the positioning of Roger as an enthusiastic vibes-man who captains a tight ship despite the band repeatedly conferring about what to play next. It means that while this isn’t the only version of The Beat, it will take some beating.