Group: Fine Young Cannibals.
Personnel: Roland Gift, vocals; David Steele, bass; Andy Cox, guitar.
History: Steele and Cox are former members of the English Beat, one of the most popular and influential groups to come out of England's ska- and soul-flavored Two-Tone scene. After the Beat broke up in 1983, Steele and Cox tried to recruit a vocalist, and even solicited for a singer on MTV. Dissatisfied with what they were finding, Steele and Cox remembered the singer from the Ackrylix, a little-known group that had once opened for the Beat. They found that singer--Gift--and the Fine Young Cannibals (a name taken from the 1960 film, "All the Fine Young Cannibals") was born. The group's first single, "Johnny Come Home" was a Top 10 UK and European hit. The group's recently released eponymous debut album was produced by Robin Millar, known for his work with Sade.
Sound: Fine Young Cannibals play soulful shades of blue-beat pop. From the percolating rhythms and thematic anxiety of "Johnny Come Home" to the group's Memphis-sound tribute on its reworking of Elvis' "Suspicious Minds," the Fine Young Cannibals evoke the cool and jazzy side of rhythm & blues. Gift's emotion-drenched vocals recall singers like Otis Redding, Jimmy Cliff and the young Van Morrison. Sometimes Gift's obvious hero emulation in his vocalizing seems forced, but the potential here is what really counts, and there's a fine young singer developing in Fine Young Cannibals.
Shows: Fender's, Thursday; the Palace, Friday; Six Flags Magic Mountain, Saturday.