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Review: The Beat at the Sub Rooms

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The Beat ft Ranking JNR | Sub Rooms, Stroud | 17/12/2022

By Nicholas Burford- The Swilgate Scuttler (C/o Slap Magazine)

The DJ opening the night had an “open goal” of a gig. He knew the Ska classics and punk anthems of the era would entertain and galvanise. The captive audience obliged with restrained skanking prior to the main event of the evening, bouncing in from Brum, The Beat!

The rhythm section’s backbeat introduced the band’s intention from the outset; the engine room that would ignite the dancefloor for a not-inconsiderable turn out. However, all eyes were on Ranking JNR as he made an entrance in his pale blue suit. The singer’s familial enthusiasm boiled over like a terrier chasing a ball into a soft ball pit. Infectious.

Infecting the audience with his verve the singer encouraged crowd participation with call and response shout-outs; encouraged spontaneous singalongs for the inebriated and carefree among his flock; he even included dedications of encouragement for the beautiful ladies in attendance. Ranking JNR is the MC and he takes his role seriously. 

Serious politics lay behind many of The Beat’s back catalogue. The song about injustice at the hands of Thatcher is articulated in “Stand Down Margaret”. Moreover, the non-existence of “a chance of a bright new tomorrow” is just as relevant today. This resulted in the crowd’s participation with the lyrics and highlighted the anti-blue sentiment in the room.   

The pale blue jacket was disposed of as JNR warmed to his task. As the songs that formed the patchwork of our youth were performed the audience grew in admiration and intention. Ranking JNR signalled his admiration for his sadly departed Father, Ranking Roger (the former front man) and spoke of his intent to carry on his work and fly the flag. The son’s eulogy and the intro for the song were welcomed with unaffected warmth.  

JNR’s shirt was undone and drenched in sweat by the time “Too Nice To Talk To,” “Twist and Crawl” and “Jackpot” had reminded the crowd why they had come to the Sub Rooms for this night. The emphasis for Ska is on the offbeat in 4/4 time – 2nd and 4th – but unlike a Tory front-bencher, let’s be honest here, technicalities aside, Ska is dance music and this crowd just wanted to dance. 

Ensnared in compliant complicity, Ranking JNR just wants to dance and sing because that is what he was born to do.

Towards the end of the gig JNR’s shirt was eschewed for a naked-torso. Looking on, there were not too many of us comfortable enough to bare our bulbous abdomens. Of course, the night was all about the music and nothing more. “Mirror in the Bathroom” compounded this truism and you couldn’t help but think: “The Sub Rooms have certainly offered up another galvanising night of entertainment.” And I wouldn’t mind betting my shirt on more excellent nights to follow.  

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