It’s not been heard for a while, but it’s familiar all the same; the chant is ‘Rude boys! Rude boys! Rude boys!’, what with that and the chequered drum kit,it can mean only one thing…
The Specials are in town and they’re ready to wind back the clock and have us skanking like its 1979.
They may be diluted down to four out of seven of the original members, but when Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, Sir Horace, and John Bradbury take the stage they are welcomed with a massive roar that deserves a massive response and what better than to open the set with the classic ‘Ghost Town’.
Many bands may have saved their biggest hits for the end of the set or even the encore, but with a back catalogue as vigorous as The Specials I don’t think it matters what order the songs come at you, as long as they keep coming. And so they did – 25 in total, everyone a classic.
Just in case anyone was in any doubt Terry gave us a quick reminder “Hello we’re a band called The Specials”. A couple of songs later he’s changed his mind, “We are a band called Wham, and this is Club Tropicana” is a neat intro to ‘International Jet Set’.
Recruited back in March especially for the tour, Steve Craddock, (Paul Weller Band, Ocean Colour Scene) fills in for latest departee, guitarist, Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers. They’re big boots, (or should that be loafers?), to fill, but Craddock fits them very nicely. He looks the part, plays the part and is definitely a part of today’s line up.
The Specials are well known for their “more focused and informed political and social stance”. Back when it all began a Tory government was in power and seemed hell bent on putting down the working class, people were rioting on the streets and The Specials were quite happy to pass comment on the lot. It’s a sad indictment that many of their songs are as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago. This is a point that Lynval has picked up on as he introduces ‘Why? “30 years ago we played Rock against Racism in Leeds; it saddens me that today we still have to give the same message…”
Horace spent the first part of the gig lurking about at the back of the stage (which is why his presence is lacking in the photos – don’t blame the photographer. Blame the dreaded three song rule.) But once he gets into his stride, he’s off. Frequent forays to the front of stage help whip up the crowd even more. By the time we get to ‘Do the Dog’ it’s almost frenzy like down the front. Young men, older men, women, black and white, are all skanking along together. It’s infectious and harder to stand still than join in. Lynval says he’s gonna teach Craddock to skank there and then, there’s an exchange of banter between the band which is ended by Terry claiming it’s “…like been on stage with the Chuckle Brothers…” He’s got a rep for been a grumpy sod, but there’s a hint of the humourist about him tonight. But it’s no laughing matter when Horace once again takes stage front and leads everyone into the wonderfully turbulent ‘Concrete Jungle’.
They opened with a number one single so it made sense to finish with a number one single. ‘Too Much Too Young’ closes the main set and the band retire backstage.
It’s not too long before they re-appear. Without Terry for the first track of the encore, Lynval cries out we’re going back to 1979 and ‘Guns of Navarone’, once again, has everyone up skanking along, even the seated balconies have people on their feet. As it finishes, the ‘man in grey’ returns to the stage – “Hello my names Terry and I like hanging round men’s toilets.” Cue ‘Enjoy Yourself’. We certainly have from the minute they took to the stage to the farewell song. “This is our last song, a personal favourite of mine, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’…” Hall demonstrates his sarcasm one last time and the show ends with ‘You’re Wondering Now’. 25 songs – it’s been a blast, you could say from the past, from a band that were certainly an influence on myself, and countless others. But with the state as things as they are The Specials are as relevant today as they have always been, and tonight proves that their music has done more than endure the test of time. Definitely another contender for gig of the year.
‘View from the Pit Gallery’ – ( just click on any pic to open gallery and see full size)
Official setlist –