The Beat and The Selecter: a dream combination

Get the latest from Beat

The Beat and The Selecter: a dream combination


The Beat were up first, and it had just ticked over 8.30, which seemed like an unfeasibly early start for a gig. However, The Beat’s MC and frontman, Ranking Roger (which stands for the quiet brag of “top-ranking” Roger) had the crowd swinging from the rafters in no time. The early hour and the fact that days of swelter had only broken (punters ambled in looking like drowned Fred-Perry rats) showed us why Roger is a toaster beyond compare. Lean, lanky, waist-long braids, punk pants (replete with chains) and six-foot plus to boot, he was commanding as well as energetic – the rest of us mere mortals are lazy bastards in comparison. 

Harkening back to their political roots, the band incited a minor riot with their anti-Thatcherite ska anthem ‘Stand Down Margaret’, followed by the funkier classic for the shy rude boy ‘Too Nice To Talk To’. No one missed out, because the next one, ‘The Door To Your Heart’, went out to the rude girls. While the set was largely a collection of their hits, tunes from their 2016 album The Bounce didn’t miss the mark either, including ‘Fire Burn’ – another political anthem dedicated to our parlous world leaders. Roger asked if we were happy, and beamed when he was met with a resounding ‘yes’: he was enjoying this just as much as we were. 

Before the gig, The Selecter’s inimitable front lady Pauline Black was perched on the edge of the merch desk swinging her legs, charming the hell out of awed fans. Black’s 64 years old, but for all the world looks like she’s two decades younger. On stage, with a voice perched somewhere between Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey, she was a force of nature. When Black told us to jump, we asked how high. ‘Missing Words, ‘Skaville’ and ‘James Bond’ had the room hopping. It was a Monday night and we were in a ska frenzy. 

To wrap up proceedings, in a moment of two-tone gold, Roger and Junior joined the Selecter for a cover of the Madness classic, ‘Madness’.  At various points, this moment included, the gig did that rare thing whereby it transcended into a state verging on the ecstatic, and I’m not even high. It’s a big call, but I’ll back it: this was a gig of a lifetime.

Highlight: Seeing so many blokes cut a rug. Special mention to Ranking Roger’s son, Roger Junior, whose rhyme-spitting speed is unfathomable, and The Beat’s frontman Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson for style.

Lowlight: I had my heart set on The Beat playing ‘Save It for Later’, but in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.

Crowd Favourite: The Beat’s singles ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ and ska-ed up cover ‘Tears of a Clown’ hit all the feels.