The English Beat @ Fulton 55, Fresno CA 01/24/14
This was my first show at Fulton 55. It’s a cozy club located near Fresno’s downtown area. It’s unassuming and a little hard to find. Parking was horrendous but I managed to squeeze in and parallel park near the venue. Openers Let’s Go Bowling was wrapping up their set. The club itself was fairly small, making for an intimate venue. The GA area was a very compact space littered with tables, making it difficult to squeeze and push oneself up toward the stage. The Beat hadn’t yet taken the stage and the club was filled to the gills, there was hardly any room to stand, as patrons packed the main GA area or clustered around the bar. Consequently, I was stuck near the bar area with practically no line of sight with the stage. People were shoulder to shoulder and trying to avoid spilling drinks. Bumping was inevitable, this gig was definitely not for those with personal space issues. The upstairs area was no better, as the early birds had already filled the balcony and slammed the second bar area with their drink orders. I would guestimate capacity was around 700, and I’d believe it if the show was sold-out. It was a cold winter night however the warm bodies inside the club compensated for that, causing many to shed their coats and sweatshirts.
The Beat finally took the stage at 9:30 and the crowd was vocal and boisterous. Dave Wakeling was all smiles and enjoyed the positive energy. The band was super tight, all touring veterans, and brought the peppy and exuberant ska sound to life onstage. The sax player was killer. I rarely ever go to club gigs and now I remember why. What I found distracting and border-line annoying was the level of audience noise, audience conversation to be more precise. The talk near the bar area was almost as loud as the band itself. It was as if this concert was more like a social event than an actual live gig, an opportunity to hang out, drink and interact. I’m guessing there were plenty of Fulton 55 regulars present, not just fans of the band. Personally, I’ve never understood how someone can carry on conversation during a concert and treat a live group like background music. I’ve also never understood how someone can get sh*t faced drunk at a concert either. Maybe I take my music too seriously, but at a live show I want to remember every note, every moment. Another annoyance for me was the excess of patrons well over 6’ tall. There were soooo many tall motherf*uckers there, I had no idea there were so many giants in Fresno. As the show went on I was able to navigate through the crowd and slowly eased my toward the front for a better vantage point.
The set was so much fun, bouncy, up-beat, and joyous. You couldn’t help but smile and groove. The horn player laid down some infectious lines, adding additional color and flavor to the songs. The front men, Wakeling and Antonee, were great at interacting with the audience and served as great hype men. Antonee’s position with the group is that of “Toaster,” which is very accurate. He got the crowd going, heated up the venue, and helped lay down those classic Beat/General Public tracks, filling in well for Ranking Roger. The songs were played very faithfully and most had this added twist to them, a jolt of vibrant energy that brought the songs out of the 80’s and into the 21st century. Tracks like Sole Salvation, Best Friend, Too Nice To Talk To, Save It For Later, and I’ll Take You There sounded GREAT. But the one song I waited patiently for all night, General Public’s beloved track “Tenderness,” didn’t go down as magically as the other songs. The song got a great cheer from the crowd and you just had to sing along to the chorus, but much of the thump was missing and the keys didn’t sound as bright as they do on record. The rhythm section and keyboards make that song, and unfortunately neither matched the magic found on the studio version. Still awesome to hear one of my all-time favorite songs performed. And of course the night ended with the immortal “Mirror in the Bathroom.” The club went bonkers when they played that song. It was a fitting end to the set and the obvious closer. It was great seeing these great ska/new wave/mod icons. I just wish they could play a venue that was more fitting for a true listening experience. It was still fun and I’d consider seeing these guys again.
Posted on February 8, 2014, in Concerts: 2012 - Present, The English Beat and tagged Dave Wakeling, fresno, Fulton 55, General Public, I'll Take You There, Let's Go Bowling, Mirror In The Bathroom, Mod, New Wave, Save It For Later, Ska, Tenderness, The English Beat, The Fresno Bee. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.