The Specials: Marquee, Cork – live review

The Specials
Marquee, Cork
June 11 2012

Sid Murf has been a big fan of The Specials for nearly 30 years but had never seen them live. Till two weeks ago that is when they played at Cork’s Marquee. Read his thought on the gig (and a review of it) below.

It’s nigh on 30yrs since I stumbled across the amazing music of The Specials. At that stage they had already broken up leaving behind 2 albums & 7 top 10 singles, two of which reached #1 ”“ and all in the space of two years. Of course that was in the bygone age when record sales meant something & when a great deal of hit singles had something to say about the society they were released into! But enough about that…if you know The Specials you don’t need me to tell you how their music reflected that era in the history of Britain (and beyond)! On to the gig….

A short taxi trip on a nice sunny Cork evening brings us to the Marquee big top & (finally) the chance to see one of my all-time favourite bands for the first time! A few swift pints in the ”Ëœfoyer’ area (which resembles a Harrington jacket/Doc Marten/Fred Perry convention!!!) and just before 9 we’re ready for the main attraction…

The band come on to the strains of ”ËœEnjoy Yourself’ (the outro version from ”ËœMore Specials) & kick straight into ”ËœDo The Dog’ quickly followed by ”ËœDawning Of A New Era’ which set the tone nicely for the evening ahead. Terry Hall dedicates ”ËœGangsters’ to Jedward ”“ who will ”Ëœgrace’ that very same stage over the coming weeks….a fitting song to dedicate to two guys who are the epitome of everything that’s wrong in this X- Factor(y) age of manufactured pop music!

Three songs in & Coventry’s magnificent seven have the crowd eating out of their hands… After ”ËœMonkey Man’, ”ËœRat Race’ & ”ËœHey Little Rich Girl’ (which Lynval dedicates to Amy Winehouse ”“ apparently it was her favourite song) they storm through some classics from their 1979 debut ”ËœSpecials’ ”“ think ”ËœBlank Expression’, Doesn’t Make It Alright’ ”“ which has to be one of the greatest songs ever written ”“ ”ËœStupid Marriage’ & ”ËœConcrete Jungle’ which, thankfully, was sung by Terry & not Roddy!! Anybody who has seen the 30th Anniversary Tour dvd will know what I mean. ”ËœFriday Night, Saturday Morning’ & ”ËœStereotypes’ give way to the apocalyptic reggae of ”ËœMan At C&A’.

On the home stretch now the lads continue with ”ËœA Message To You Rudy’, ”ËœDo Nothing’, ”ËœLittle Bitch’ & ”ËœNite Klub’….here is where it gets a bit hazy for me (that’ll be the aforementioned swift pints!!) but what I do recall is an encore that included ”ËœToo Much Too Young’ & ”ËœYou’re Wondering Now’! The band are off stage shortly after 10:30…this, I’m told, is the norm at the Marquee as its in a residential area…they do not return, as most of the crowd expected, to do the ”ËœSkinhead Symphony’ and/or Ireland’s unofficial national anthem (thanks Fr Ted) ”ËœGhost Town’! I could have seen this as a disappointment but given the 90mins that had gone before you really couldn’t complain.

The band were exceptional, not only in terms of excitement & energy onstage but also musicianship ”“ John Bradbury has to be one of the finest drummers Britain has ever produced & Horace’s skills on the bass are nothing short of legendary, Roddy threw himself about the stage like a man half his age never missing a note. I’m not sure who the keyboard player is (from a distance he could be mistaken for a son of Eric Morecambe) but he proved the lads didn’t need Jerry Dammers to make this reunion as ”Ëœspecial’ as we’d all hoped ”“ no offence intended to Jerry, without him, his drive & his vision there would have been no Specials, no 2-Tone, no ska revival!

Lynval maintains his Jamaican rocksteady cool all night & Neville is the entertainer (second vocalist/MC/punky reggae clown/whatever!!) while Terry ”ËœLaughing Boy’ Hall holds his ground throughout. A thoroughly enjoyable experience…I say experience because for me this was so much more than a gig, there are very few bands who have had a bigger impact on me down through the years than The Specials.

I got to thinking on the journey home the following day ”“ could you ever envisage somebody having a Top 10 hit with a song like ”ËœRat Race’ or ”ËœNite Klub’ today? Let alone 2 number ones like ”ËœToo Much Too Young’ or ”ËœGhost Town’…

’Ghost Town’ is just as, if not more, relevant today than in 1981. The bands are there, the statements are being made but the avenues to getting these messages to as wide an audience as possible are being blocked by the bland & plastic X-Factor/Idol/Voice circus that is constantly beamed into peoples homes & heads…But that’s a story for another day.

I’ll leave you with this – given the state popular music is in these days the Specials song that sticks in my head is ”ËœGangsters’!

Simon Cowell knows! Don’t argue!

All words by Sid Murf.

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