Neville and Sugary Staple: The Sun Inn, Llangollen
16th November 2018
Wayne Carey gets out of Manchester and finds out how much the Two-Tone sound is still loved in North Wales…
I went out on a road trip this weekend to witness The Specials legend and his wife Sugary and their band hit a tiny venue in North Wales. I’m also turning off my swearing mode for a rare moment as a certain nine year old rudeboy named Cai will hopefully be reading this!
I’d already booked the hotel months before when this gig was announced as Manchester was not on his list for this tour, following the release of the excellent new album Rude Rebels. I’ve hit Llangollen quite a few times during my mountain bagging escapades in Snowdonia, and you can’t beat the drive through here to hit the peaks.
I get to the venue which is a proper traditional old skool pub adorned with psychedelic decorations. It’s like stepping back in time which is what I actually do tonight when the events unfold. There are no support bands, just a Mod / Ska DJ set which gets the ever growing crowd in party mood with stuff from Selector, The Beat, Madness, Bad Manners, all the stuff I grew up with as a youth. Most of the crowd are my age and above and there’s even a grandad in full Mod uniform skanking away with the young Cai who is dressed like a young skin. I talk to him later about how good his dancing was and he’s been doing it since the age of three!
The venue opens at 8.30 and in true Jamaican custom Neville and band don’t hit the stage until after 10pm and the crowd are well juiced up for this sprawling set. I actually expected this to be heavy with tracks from the new album. What we get is a cracking mix of Specials classics, some Fun Boy Three bangers and some memorable covers which are all delivered by his band of Ska- sters. All the band play an integral piece of the party, with Matty on drums, Spencer on trombone, Sledge on bass, Joe on keyboard, Sugary and Neville the double act and Billy Shinbone ripping that guitar.
The party starts with tunes that take me back right to the early eighties and when Concrete Jungle is aired the crowd go bonkers. Young Cai is even invited on stage to do a bit of skanking with Neville he will never forget. Fun Boy Three tunes are in there including the brilliant Lunatics and it’s like a karaoke session with a legend. Sugary is grinning throughout the full set and even dedicates one song to highlight the problems of knife crime. No explanation needed here…
A Message To You Rudy is as amazing as ever, and the brilliant Pressure Drop by The Maytals is sang word for word by everyone in the room. The highlight of the night though just had to be the extended version of The Specials biggest hit Ghost Town which went on for almost 10 minutes. It was like a proper Ska jam and the improvisation going on was a wonder for all these people who had travelled a long way for this. There were obviously quite a few locals in there but I admire the people who turned up to make this a memorable night for old Mods like me who got a taste of nostalgia by a legend in his sixties who’s still got what it takes as a performer. I missed his Band On The Wall performance in Manchester and live to regret it. Here’s hoping he’ll be back soon.
Nov 23 Skamouth – DJ Party
Dec 01 Hastings – Black Market VIP
Dec 08 Devon (TBA)
Dec 21 Frome – Cheese & Grain
Dec 22 Swansea – The Garage