The English Beat
with Fishbone, Outlaw Nation
Firestone Live, Orlando FL • February 16, 2010
Carl F Gauze
On a chilly winter evening, I rolled up to the Firestone Live (formerly The Club at Firestone) and got in line behind a pair of retired vinyl collectors. We exchanged notes on new wave bands and the complete and utter coolness of tonight’s show, and then went through one of the least convincing metal detector pat downs I’ve ever experienced. Inside the echoing confines of Orlando’s only auto repair shop turned dance club, I found a vantage point near the lighting booth that allowed a good view of the action.
Opening act Outlaw Nation started the set with two potentially hip-hop chords, but quickly retreated to a ska beat that occasionally threatened to fly off into the clouds of “Free Bird” or “Riders On The Storm.” Outlaw Nation is an intriguing act; while their stage show is rather static and their material weak, lead guitarist Christian Simeon chomps at the frets and may secretly aspire to play classic album-oriented rock. I was even more impressed by drummer “JB Tha Drum Killa” – he provides the coolest drumming I’ve ever seen and laid down a Jimmy Page quality drum solo. This band has promise, and if they can pick up some stage tips from this next act, they have a fine future ahead of them.
Second on the roster is the legendary Fishbone. This band was one of the really hip/mysterious groups during the MTV golden age, and their video for “Party at Ground Zero” is in my personal top ten. Outside the Firestone there was a sign warning “no crowd surfing – no stage diving,” but the band must have come in through the artists’ entrance. Seconds after blasting out a fiery “Ma and Pa,” lead singer Angelo Moore climbed the speaker stack and swan-dived into the crowd. They passed him back and forth, with a sound guy furiously reeling out microphone cord. His rubbery dance moves and energetic onstage boogie recalled Cab Calloway and MC Hammer, and the sound never stopped. “Freddy’s Dead” and “Iron Man” filled the set, and Angelo must have one of the most extensive saxophone collections in rock and roll. This band got the crowd skanking, and left a glistening frenzy of a crowd for the main act, The English Beat.
Let’s pause right here for a moment, just as the show did.
Now it was time for the English Beat to entertain, and they glided into a promising “Tears of a Clown,” a cover that first got them airplay. Things then slowed down with songs that seemed to go on endlessly and gradually lost their melody, leaving only a rhythm. “I’ll Take You There,” “Twist and Crawl,” and “Hands Off-She’s Mine” are all fine songs, but their high-energy, power-pop sound faded as Dave Wakeling repeatedly changed and retuned his guitar. Toaster Antonee First Class came out during the guitar changes, and while I grasp the close ties between this Jamaican-style rapping and the Two Tone movement, he seemed to be covering up for a mysterious technical problem. Combine that with lighting that left most of the band in shadows, and you have a very unfulfilling concert experience.
Never before have I seen a lead act let the air out of a room so painfully. Fishbone left the English Beat a room full of wound up fans ready to devour raw meat, and by the time I slid out, the crowd was orderly, applauding politely, and dry to the touch. All the hits were there and I can’t say anything bad about “Mirror in the Bathroom,” but the sense was “Finally, we got what we paid for.” instead of “more! More! MORE!” Meanwhile, Angelo Moore from Fishbone was in the back of the room autographing anything the fans brought to him, chatting up the women, and generally emitting more energy that the band on stage could. I dropped down to say hello, and ended up talking to the bass player and sound engineer, who were discussing the acoustics of the room. As the chords of “Mirror in the Bathroom” rolled over me, my date and I edged toward the door. The Fishbone magic was long gone, cigarette smoke had permeated our winter coats, and the light guy had still not figured out how to aim his robot-controlled light system on the lead singer in the band. It was time to skank on home.