I hadn’t seen The Specials live before, but had grown up on a steady and constant number of Top Of The Pops appearances and various other music TV shows at that time, and like most had a fistful of their 7″ vinyl releases. The Specials, also known as The Special AKA, are an English 2 Tone and Ska revival band formed in 1977 in Coventry. After some early changes, the first stable line-up of the group consisted of Terry Hall and Neville Staple on vocals, Lynval Golding and Roddy Radiation on guitars, Horace Panter on bass, Jerry Dammers on keyboards, the recently passed away John Bradbury on drums, and Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez on horns. Their music combines a “danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk’s energy and attitude”.
The band wore mod-style 1960s period rude boy gear back in the day. In 1980, the song “Too Much Too Young”, the lead track on their The Special AKA Live! reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1981, the recession-themed single “Ghost Town” also hit No. 1 in the UK.
A sold out Brighton Dome was the setting for tonights gig. This was a special tour as 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the formation of The Specials and the legendary Two-Tone label as well as the release of the band’s new album Encore. This was going to be a tricky one to photograph as there was so much furniture on the stage, which pushed the band quite a way back from the front of the stage.
The Specials: The Set.
A huge cheer welcomed the band to the stage and then Terry Hall casually stepped out, having a quick last vape. I think the crowd were ready for this as I turned to look back across the venue to see a solidly packed lower ground level of expectant fans. Man From C&A ( a long since gone clothes retailer) and the mighty fine Rat Race got things underway. The sound was incredible! It was there – just as I remembered it. With only 3 original members in this line up and the newer members they just joined together and produced that sound.
As I say only three originals in the line up and that included vocalist Terry Hall, Lynval Golding playing some great rhythm guitar and vocals, with Horace Panter doing his thing on bass guitar. We were only a couple of songs in and in the centre area of the crowd a dance pit had opened up. Vote for Me and Friday Night Saturday Morning were served up. Terry Hall was fairly static during the earlier part of the set as the band, especially Lynval, spread themselves about on the stage putting on an energetic performance.
The set was by now bubbling along nicely and then the atmospheric opener of The Lunatics fired everyone up, and followed up quickly by A Message To You Rudy – and that was it! Lift off! Everyone was up on their feet singing and dancing along. Superb atmosphere in the Dome!
10 Commandments was up next and featured Saffiyah Khan – who put together the lyrics for this. She bravely climbed over the monitors and tip toed through the mic cables to jump down into the pit in front of the crowd, always brave to do – its quite a drop!
Gangsters was soon up and so were the crowd. The security guys discreetly spread themselves around the venue as the intensity of the music was matched by the crowd. They were not needed it was a Ska party tonight, the crowd were clearly there to enjoy the music, and perhaps those in the past that may have invaded the stage just don’t do that any more, and the security quickly melted away. Too Much Too Young was the cry and the band hurled into this one, as did the crowd. The venue came alive to singing and dancing, not just on the floor, but on the stairs, balconies and pretty much wherever there was a space. Hall bowed at the end of the song and the band left the stage.
The Specials: The Band
The three tonight were joined by a truly fabulous set of musicians, some have been playing with The Specials since 2008. They comprised of a brass section Tim Smart on trombone with Pablo Mendelssohn – blowing his trumpet, Nikolaj Torp Larsen, a tall fella, on keyboards and accordion, Steve Cradock – playing lead guitar, , and the man at the back Kenrick Rowe keeping it all together on drums.
The band, minus Hall, came back onto the stage for an instrumental dance session headed up by the wonderful Lynval. Hall rejoined his band for the last couple of numbers and the evening concluded with Ghost Town. Superb!
This had been a truly special evening, what a set! A great mix of old and newer material. Superb musicianship all led by Terry Hall. I guess there can be concern when an iconic, like The Specials, re-form with different line ups. I can assure you this line-up will deliver exactly what you want to hear and see. The Specials are still a tight band, with sharp lyrics and a great live performance.
The Specials: A Video.
Join in with The Specials: ENCORE!
Britain is in a state, fairly similar I guess to when the band started out, but nowadays we have of the chaos that is Brexit, politics, austerity cuts, #metoo, poverty, crime and foodbanks. Do we need The Specials and their observations and music? Yes, I think we do.
Huge thanks to The Specials – you can find them on the WWW
Thanks to Island Records
Thanks to Nick – Brighton and Hove News
And as always a massive shout to the crew and team who work hard at Brighton Dome to ensure you have a good night out. Thank you guys – awesome!
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All original pictures / video – copyright to IANB/MEDIA WORKS/ SCENE SUSSEX – Ian “The Lens” Bourn 2019.
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