July 12, 2016 Soul Asylum & The English Beat Roll Into The Paramount Huntington, NY 6-28-16
Out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Soul Asylum has been one of the hardest working bands in Alternative Rock for nearly thirty-five years. Sleeping on floors and struggling to get by is all part of the charm that make up the early days of this band who take an unapologetic approach to their loud, frenetic sound. Matched with a scruffy Midwest appearance, the band led by Singer/Guitarist Dave Pirner continue to jug away all these years later. Armed with a new album three years in the making, entitled Change of Fortune, Soul Asylum take to the road once again in the summer of 2016. After spending a successful summer 2015 campaign on the road with The Meat Puppets, this season they change it up once again, this time inviting The English Beat out with them for a run of shows through June and July. Another unique lineup not cookie-cut from what an internet program says one should like, with Change of Fortune in full swing and The English Beat in tow, the bands headed out to Long Island to play at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on Tuesday June 28th.
Up first for the early arriving crowd was New York based band, The Pandemics. Formed in 2010 with roots in Long Island, Westchester, and New York City, with a high energy Ska/Punk sound, they were the perfect choice to start off the fun. Performing a mix of catchy tunes, The Pandemics had many people moving and grooving along with the beat. With that said, the band is well on their way to fulfilling their mission to spread their infectious brand of Ska/Punk music to all as they move forward.
Next up on the bill was the one and only The English Beat. Initially called The Beat when forming during a period of social, political, and musical turmoil in Birmingham, England, the band established themselves with a unique blend of Reggae, Soul, as well as Punk Rock sounds. With an ability to fuse all of their musical influences together into highly danceable songs, The English Beat were one of the most popular, not to mention influential bands of the British Two-Tone Ska movement. While the bulk of their fanbase remained in the United Kingdom, they also had a sizeable following in North America thanks to a handful of Dance chart hits and touring with the likes of David Bowie, The Clash, and The Police. Now, all these years later, The English Beat lives on with co-founding member Dave Wakeling (lead vocals/guitar), along with Matt Morrish (sax/vocals), Kevin Lum (keys/vocals), King Schascha (toaster), Brian “Nucci” Cantrell (frums), Michael “Railo” Railton (keys/vocals), and Larry Young (bass/vocals).
A welcomed return for the new generation of The English Beat, the band had visited The Paramount back in 2013 and 2015. With everyone applauding their entrance as they were introduced by local WLIR DJ Larry The Duck (currently of SiriusXM First Wave), Wakeling greeted the large crowd and thanked them for their support throughout the years. Opening with the song “Rough Rider,” everyone cheered and danced wildly to the jamming beats. Addressing the crowd, toaster King Schascha yelled out to fans “Somebody scream!” to which the fans happily obliged. Bringing it back to the beginning, they played their debut single, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover, “The Tears of a Clown.”
Asking the sea of jubilant fans if they were ready to twist and crawl, Wakeling lead the group into “Twist and Crawl” as the rest of the band worked the room and had everyone on their feet bouncing along to the hypnotic rhythm of their music. In fact, an over-exuberant fan got up on the stage with the band and started wildly dancing. Promptly ejected by security, the group was disheartened by this and stated that, “He only wanted to dance,” wanting the venue to allow him to stay. After playing the song, “Rude Boy Skank,” Wakeling made jokes about the upcoming election and had the crowd roaring with laughter before going into “I’ll Take You There.” King Schascha then went into a rap while bouncing around the stage, which had everyone completely engaged. Rocking into another favorite, 1981’s hit “Save It For Later,” the band did a nice job of balancing out all their biggest tracks.
Taking a moment to address the audience again, Wakeling announced that their next song was for the ladies, and it was the General Public 1984 hit single “Tenderness.” A pleasant addition to the set list following a few more songs including their mega hit “Mirror in the Bathroom,” to much to the dismay of the crowd, it was time for The English Beat to go. A sad departure, because they really had the party jumping, they concluded with their The Pioneers’ cover of “Jackpot.” Those who missed The English Beat’s visit to The Paramount, let not their hearts be troubled because they will be back around on Long Island to perform at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett September 3rd and returning to The Paramount October 16th with Squeeze. Not to mention, they have a brand new album, entitled Here We Go Love, slated for release in late September, so there is plenty more of this exciting band to come.
As the stage was being prepared for Soul Asylum’s set, fans talked amongst themselves in eager anticipation for their performance. Mixing melodic but uninhibited Punk, Hardcore, Rock, and Country contributes to Soul Asylum being labeled as a “Grunge precursor.” A justified label or not, Soul Asylum are arguably one of the most underrated Rock bands of the last two decades. With that in mind, those who have given the band more than just a superficial listen beyond their multi-platinum 1992 Grave Dancers Union and platinum 1995 Let Your Dim Light Shine albums, know there is heart behind this bunch. The aforementioned most recent album, Change of Fortune, shows that heart and proves that Pirner (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) along with his present day lineup of Michael Bland (drums/backing vocals), Winston Roye (bass guitar/backing vocals) and Ryan Murphy (lead guitar/backing vocals) could be one of the best Soul Asylum lineups to date.
Maintaining the same attitude and spunk which Soul Asylum was founded on, the group took the stage to the loud and boisterous cheers as they put it into high gear for “Somebody to Shove.” Having everyone singing along, Pirner worked the entire stage as they performed and was having just as much fun as those watching the show. His charismatic and exciting demeanor was infectious, and the crowd fed off of his energy. After addressing the audience, Pirner warmly praised them before going into a list of tracks including new one “Can’t Even Tell,” as well as not so knew ones, Just Like Anyone” and “Misery.” Clearly not faking it, the raw energy and pure love Pirner and his band possessed was evidence that they enjoy performing together on stage.
Rocking on with little interruption, they went into a slew of favorites including “Black Gold,” “Without A Trace,” and “String of Pearls.” Showing off more tight new cuts like “Supersonic” and “Dealing,” they slowed it down for “Eyes of a Child.” Seeming as if the night was winding down, Soul Asylum closed out the set with their most famous song, “Runaway Train.” A track that proceeds the ’90s era, the band allowed their fans to indulge as the audience rocked hard, singing along loudly to the chorus. As they exited the stage and the lights dimmed down, fans began yelling for an encore, and to their delight, Soul Asylum humbly returned. Back out for more, not to play one, but two more songs, “Doomsday” and “April Fool,”devoted fans reveled in every moment of the encore.
Overall, Soul Asylum put on one hell of a show no one would soon forget. Change of Fortune shows the band’s ability to persevere, surviving as not a nostalgic act, but one that continues to grow. Their tour with The English Beat is proving to be a fantastic mix of genres, giving fans quite the variety on any given night. The tour with The English Beat ends July 13th, but both bands continue to tour well through the end of the month, so get out there and support these exceptional performers.Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography