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The Specials in Manchester: ‘A message to you’

The Specials

By Desh Kapur, Rock At Night Manchester


Venue:
Manchester Academy – Sunday 28th April 2019  

Lynval Golding ofThe Specials

The first three records I bought with my own money as a kid, were “Eton Rifles” by The Jam, “Message in a Bottle” by The Police and “Too Much Too Young” by The Specials. And from that day forth, The Jam and The Specials took a place in my musical heart and pride of place in my record collection 

So you can imagine how excited I was to be photographing and reviewing them tonight in Manchester Academy. But there was a little worry thrown in with that excitement…. would they be what I wanted them to be? I’d heard the new album and liked it very much, although I haven’t bought it yet. Would those classic tracks from so long ago still move me the same way? I would know in about 2 hours. 

Terry Hall of The Specials

The stage was decked out with picket signs with slogans, saying  “Vote”, “Resist”, “Think” and, even  “Listen to Sly and the Family Stone”. The DJ was playing some classic soul and Ska…. and then the music stopped. The stage lights went out. The noise volume of the waiting fans went up and The Specials walked on to the stage  (well the 3 remaining members did, Terry Hall, Horace Panter and guitarist Lynval Golding; according to Terry Hall in a recent interview ‘The 3 most talented’) 

The band seemed very comfortable and at ease, with the authority of a band who have a number 1 album “Encore”, their first record with Terry Hall since 1981. 

The set is a mixture of old and new and they sit together perfectly. The old stuff sounds like it could have been written today. The new stuff sounds like it could have been written all those years ago, which I guess is a sad indictment of the world today. The Specials were always on the side of social justice and produced songs with a social commentary on racism and equality. But don’t get me wrong, these thoughts and reflections of the world we live in were wrapped up in brilliant Ska and pop, reggae beats and rhythms, backed by the beautiful punk style of Terry Hall’s voice.  

Steve Carddock of The Specials

Of course, the classic and familiar tracks from way back when were going to get the biggest reception from the hard core following of long time fans present, and oh didn’t they!! “A Message to You Rudy”, “Nite Klub”, “Gangsters”, “Ghost Town”, “Monkey Man” created a room full of flailing arms, kicking legs and pogoing heads. Brilliant stuff. 

 A special mention should go out to the super cool Mod man guitarist Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller) and drummer Kenrick Rowe.  

 The Specials are exactly what they say they are, SPECIAL, their pen is still strong with things to say and they are as relevant now as they were over 3 decades ago,  

 RIGHT…..gotta go buy that record. 

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