What can you say about The Specials that hasn’t already been written? They are a band who have earned their stripes and are still managing to mix up the music scene nearly 40 years on since they were formed.
The Specials lead the way in ska and two tone music along with Madness – together they’ve been a beacon of light to all mod and skinhead revivalists with their politically strong lyrics and reggae beats. But this band aren’t just doing the rounds – they’re still drawing in thousands to see them play a set-list filled with all their classic hits.
On a bitterly cold night in Newcastle (which isn’t really surprising as it’s November), I soon realised I was the smallest person in the crowd as I pushed my way through the hordes of skinheads that lined the streets outside the O2 Academy.
The Specials took to the stage along with Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock just after 9pm and kicked off a 90 minute set with Ghost Town the opening tune. It was eerie and dark entrance which saw bright white lights shine in the face of the audience before the groove kicked in…
That was just a taste of what was to come as ‘Nite Klub’, ‘Man at C&A’, ‘A Message to You Rudy’, ‘You’ve Done Too Much’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’ all followed as beer flew here, there and everywhere.
It was a sight to behold as 40 and 50-year-old men and women were jumping around reliving their youth. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all as there was something quite special and assuring about it. One track that stood out to me with real purpose was ‘Why?’: a ballad based on race, followed by ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’, which has a strikingly similar message.
Yet the real highlight of the night was the final two songs of the encore, firstly ‘Enjoy Yourself’ was greeted with a mass uproar before the 70s ska band concluded with ‘You’re Wondering Now…’ which is just fitting in every way to end a gig on as the lyrics say ‘You’re wondering now, what to do, now you know this is the end’.
It was a sterling performance which emphasises just why The Specials keep on rolling back the years despite the years going on and on. And in the words of lead singer Terry Hall before he walked off stage, ‘You don’t realise how much we love you…’