I’m on the best kind of bender; a live music one. It started earlier this week with The Parkington Sisters at Empire and continues with three more shows in the next three days.
Tonight I’m off to Port City Music Hall to revel in my favorite ska/pop/alternative band, a band that’s been dear to many of us for many years.
The English Beat, fronted by Dave Wakeling, put Portland on its “cool places to play” list in 2009 and this will be their third time here since then. We fans, both new and old, keep going back for more because it’s always a lively affair of dancing and musical mirth.
All this from a band that only released three studio albums back in the ’80s but made a lasting impression with a bevy of tunes permanetly etched in the DNA of its fans. I still have one of their albums on vinyl, one I’ve had since college (it’s practically an antique) and every song on it has held up over time.
There have been a number of lineup changes since the glory days of the early ’80s, but the heart of the band is still Wakeling. Quick aside without confusing you too much: It should be mentioned that in England, they were and still are simply The Beat and original member Ranking Roger is fronting that outfit, whereas Brit-turned-Californian Wakeling helms The English Beat, which has been the American moniker since the beginning. And I might remind you that after the original band dissolved, General Public was formed, and who can forget “Tenderness”?
So where was I? Ah yes, recounting all the songs that make me such a big fan, there’s “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Stand Down Margaret,” “I Confess,” “Twist and Crawl,” and of course, “Save it for Later,” and there’s plenty more where that came from, including a personal favorite, their treatment of “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” first made famous by Andy Williams in the ’60s.
As for new music, Wakeling told me during a telephone chat the other day that they are indeed working on some. “We’re quite a ways down the road,” he said, adding that we can expect to hear three new songs at the show. He also said we can expect an evening of music that won’t make our ears bleed. “You can hear everything and you don’t have to wear earplugs.”
I’ve seen The English Beat two times and I can’t wait for number three. I was essentially a kid when they broke up the first time and was thrilled to learn several years back that they had reformed and were touring again. See and hear for yourself, you won’t regret it.
The English Beat. 8 p.m. Thursday. Port City Music Hall. 504 Congress St., Portland. $30; $40 VIP; 18-plus; portcitymusichall.com
ON FRIDAY NIGHT you can find me at Merrill Auditorium, where I’ll be seeing (and reviewing for Saturday’s paper) Mandy Patinkin. Said another way, I’m seeing Inigo Montoya live. But long before I ever saw “The Princess Bride” I was obsessed with the Broadway recording of “Evita,” which I had seen in Boston. Patinkin won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Che in 1980 and that album, with the black, white and silver cover, is still a favorite, mostly due to Patinkin’s gorgeous, booming voice.
Patinkin went on to have huge roles in “Chicago Hope,” “Criminal Minds” and now “Homeland,” but his first love was singing and since he does it so very well, I can’t wait to hear him live.
Mandy Patinkin “Dress Casual.” 8 p.m. Friday, Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland. $51 to $76. porttix.com
I’LL BE CLOSING OUT the week Saturday at Asylum in Portland with none other than Rickie Lee Jones. I consider Jones to be one of the most consistently talented and interesting vocalists and songwriters I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.
The thing with Jones is that you never know what she’ll do next. It all started in 1979 with her self-titled debut, which is home to the hit “Chuck E.’s in Love.” But it’s also home to “The Last Chance Texaco,” “Coolsville” and “Danny’s All Star Joint,” three outstanding songs that I hope she’ll regale us with.
So yeah, she can write originals with the best of them. But Jones also has a distinct knack for choosing songs to cover incredibly well. Over the course of several albums, covers have included “My Funny Valentine,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and “Trouble Man.”
Heck, she’s done albums of all covers and last year she knocked my socks off in an unprecented way with “The Devil You Know.” On it, Jones reimagines The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Play With Fire,” The Band’s “The Weight” and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” among others. Sure, you’ll recongize them, but she paints them with a different palette of colors and textures, one that is all Jones. She breathes a vulnerability and starkness into each song that seems to say, “Trust me with this song, I’m not hijacking it, I’m just adding my own layer to it.”
One final note about her show in Portland: It’s a trio performance, with Jones on piano and guitar, Ed Willett on cello and Sal Bernardi, her collaborator on the “Pirates” album, on guitar. Jones and Bernardi reunited for this tour. Talk about coolsville!
Don’t assume that any of these shows is sold out, because as I wrote this, all three still had some tickets left. But don’t debate for too long. Got it?
Rickie Lee Jones. 9 p.m. Saturday. Asylum, 121 Center St., Portland. $25 in advance; $28 day of show; $39 VIP; 18-plus; portlandasylum.com
Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: