The Selecter - Live From London
Bad Manners - Don't Knock the Bald Heads
English Beat - In Concert at the Royal Festival Hall
Most ska bands aren’t even that enjoyable in person; often the experiences that come with their shows have little to do with entertainment and more to do with fun. Part of a music scene that flourishes through its fans’ dancing, mingling and devout loyalty, ska bands easily get away with music that is written and performed by amateurs. Unless a group of people has a video-watching party, there isn’t much use for a DVD presenting any band that falls within the 99% of ska acts who aren’t any good. As for the other 1%, a series of new videos from the unimaginatively named Music Video Distributors is evidence that even those with talent can make for lackluster viewing. These three discs showcase recent concerts by Bad Manners, The English Beat, and The Selecter, each twenty years beyond their peak.
The best of the DVDs is The Selecter - Live from London. The performance is lively and tight, led by singer Pauline Black, who hasn’t lost any of the energy she had when chart-topping in 1980. She also remains one of the most intelligent and dignified personalities in her field, demonstrated in an interview included as a bonus feature. The interview featured on Bad Manners - Don’t Knock the Baldheads is worth seeing, for it shows that the band’s front man Buster Bloodvessel is a very interesting personality. Telling of his political office pursuits and other effects of being in the public eye, the big, bald singer surprises those American fans unfamiliar with the extent of his British fame. Too bad the current lineup for Bad Manners seems made up of recruits who were likely not born when the band made its debut. The horn section’s lack of expertise fails to make up for the aging Buster’s apparent loss of vocal skills. As for English Beat – In Concert at the Royal Festival Hall, the concert is disappointingly dull; the performance is sluggishly slow-tempo and the audio on the supplemental interview is out of sync.
This collection of discs is a good argument against the excess of live music DVDs currently detracting from the idea of quality docuconcerts. Companies like Music Video Distributors are able to capitalize on hardcore enthusiasts just by having a cheap camera and a contract. If anybody at the company was right in the head, they’d make a deal to have the original 1982 film Dance Craze available on DVD as it features these three bands plus The Specials, Madness and The Bodysnatchers, all in their primes.