Friday 10th May 2013
Words: John Millar
Pics: Dod Morrison
The Specials career is as chequered as the band on one of their famous pork pie hats. There has been much upheaval and bitterness over the 36 years since they formed in 1977.Tonights line up is as close to the original as I believe we’ll ever have the privilege of seeing. Their stage set is stripped down to the point of having no logos whatsoever. Nothing but the basics, and no support band either. It`s the second of their two sell out shows here and the floor is rammed by the time the band walk onstage just after 9pm and the place erupts as they launch into ‘Concrete Jungle’.
The sound is crisp and lighting pretty much all from behind creating a moody effect. Terry Hall however, is far from moody tonight and is on really good form. He carries on a bit of banter through the show when he asks someone his name but can’t understand the answer. Later he tells the guy he could show his driving licence or something to show his name. He quite candidly tells the crowd that the band all hated one another by the time the second album was being made, but then tells Lynval he never hated him because he looks too much like Bambini between this, he and the band are racking up the songs and the crowd are lapping them up and singing their hearts out while dancing themselves into a frenzy.
Five songs in comes ‘Monkey Man` which has the old sprung floor bouncing merrily. ‘Rat Race”, ‘Why’, and ‘Doesn’t make it alright` keep us all singing before an attractive three piece string section join the band. (They also had a brass section onstage for much of the set who augmented the sound nicely). Roddy Byers rarely left his side of the stage while laying down some pretty decent guitar work and adding backing vocals. Fellow original Horace Panter on bass however prowled the stage throughout and never stopped moving all night. Both he and Roddy occasionally ventured up the back beside the brass section too. Behind the keyboards, bearded Nik Torp was dancing all night and obviously having the time of his life. How he kept his jacket on as long as he did with the heat inside the venue I’ll never know.
The same goes for Terry and Lynval, particularly the latter, as he was bouncing around like a teenager. Once the string section came on, Lynval saw fit to wander up to them and have a bit of banter of occasion, which amused the girls. And still they gave us more and more brilliant songs…’Stereotype`,’Do Nothing’ ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘A Message To You’ and to close the set, a magnificent version of ‘Too much too young`. But they weren’t off stage long before they returned with a three song encore of sing-along, and a improve type version of ‘Maggie’s Farm` (sung as a ‘tribute` to Maggie Thatcher) ‘Enjoy Yourself` and ‘You’re Wondering Now`.
But still the crowd wanted more. And, slightly to our surprise, the got one more song. Emerging without Terry, Lynval thanked us wholeheartedly before he and the band gave us a rousing version of ‘Guns of Navarone`. A brilliant night, an outstanding band. Terry had told us that they get on well enough these days, sort of.
Let’s hope they keep on getting on and touring for many years to come.