The Specials at the O2 Academy BrixtonCultureMusicLive music
The Specials, the biggest and best of the 2 Tone ska revival bands active in England in the late 70s and early 80s, pitch up in Brixton on the latest leg of their reformation shows. Though only fully active between 1979 and 1981, the band left behind a legacy of recorded material and political attitude that continues to resonate. Their era was one of simmering racial tension. Comprised of both black and white musicians, The Specials played material that challenged the racist ideologies of the day and did more for integration than a billion little platitudes.
The band, minus keyboardist Jerry Dammers, reunited for concerts in 2009 and have continued to play regularly since then. Earlier this year, vocalist Neville Staples dropped out due to ill health and is badly missed tonight – the onstage chemistry between him, frontman Terry Hall and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding was integral to their live power. Hall is such a dour figure, the other duo’s exhilaration, banter and potency is required as a balance. Golding tonight bounds around the stage like no 61-year-old has any right to do, jokes with the audience and takes lead vocals for half the material – Nite Klub and a subdued Ghost Town amongst them – but the chemistry isn’t quite there.
They play a mighty set of 26 tracks and there’s very little that’s left out. This may be an issue, as a little pruning would have helped. However, the crowd are exhilarated and the security personnel find it all a little overwhelming. When A Message To You Rudy kicks in, the entire venue is hopping including those in the supposed seated area upstairs. Do Nothing, Man at C&A and the encore of Enjoy Yourself are frenzied highlights, but there’s something missing. We still love them, but we need the full contingent for The Specials to move us as they used to.
Photos: Lucia Hrda
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Watch the video for A Message To You Rudy here: