Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Terry Hall of The Specials: photo by Michael Ligon
Update [Sept 9/2010, 12:37 am]: Didn't mean to take so long to post this review but also didn't want to not post anything either so here's some of my thoughts about The Specials and their show at Sound Academy a few Saturday nights ago. I hope my posting mojo will pick up from here on out, but more often than not I'm just pooped. I should eat more vegetables.
You know you're getting old when a band from one's youth has actually reunited present day. I've had the pleasure of seeing a number of reunited acts over the last several years, bands I thought I'd never get the pleasure of seeing, such as Pixies, My Bloody Valentine and most recently Pavement. And while Coventry ska act The Specials were never a defining band of my youth, I do have fond memories of admiring mod fashion in highschool in the late 80's, that drew me in to the Two-Tone ska movement of bands like The Specials, The English Beat, and Madness. I wasn't a mod in highschool by any stretch, and my musical tastes skewed more towards bands like The Smiths, The Cure, and New Order, but The Specials always had a special place in my heart. The band's mix of pop and politics was always potent but more importantly perhaps(especially to a wide-eyed teenager) the music could drive one into a dancy frenzy. Originally scheduled to have played in Toronto back in April but having had to cancel due to an 'unforeseen medical emergency ailment', the band soon remedied the situation eventually booking a two-night stint at Sound Academy over August 27 and 28. With the first show sold-out, I was fortunate to snag a media/photo pass for the second night. Recalling one of my Facebook friend's status updates about the first show and "40-year olds" dancing up a storm, I will attest that the second night had an equally frenzied audience. This was the band's 30th anniversary, and it had been 29 years since they'd last been in Toronto and the crowd was fully pumped as they would express themselves throughout the night, mostly as a sea of dancing people. Yes, dancing in Toronto.
Forgoing an opening act, the crowd was warmed up by DJ's spinning punk, reggae, ska and soul tunes for about an hour and a half and then to the strains of the band's Reprise version of "Enjoy Yourself", the band revealed themself in silhouette behind a white sheet that draped the stage. And then with the white sheet dropping all of a sudden, the band kicked in to the blistering "Do The Dog". Except for "Too Hot", they played the entirety of their debut self-titled album which very well may have satisfied everyone for the night if they'd stopped there but they also included a bunch of favourites from their sophomore LP "More Specials". Far from prolific when they existed, the original lineup was really over after the second album although a revised lineup of the band did continue on as The Special AKA to release another LP "In The Studio" which had some key tracks. A little unfortunate that the band didn't pull out anything from "In The Studio" but on the other hand we got classic non-album cuts like "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" during the main set and then during the encore, "Ghost Town" and the rarely performed "Guns of Navarone". The band were as tight knit and energetic as I could have hoped and while lead vocalist Terry Hall's expressionless face (and occasional smoking onstage) was a little off-putting, underneath you could tell he was genuinely enjoying the moment. He even mentioned that he would like to move to Toronto, in the process mentioning something about enjoying HGTV which drew a laugh from the crowd. It was nice to see that members Neville Staple and Lynval Golding haven't lost an ounce of their energy with Neville in continual dance mode while toasting and providing back-up vocals and Lynval on rhythm guitar and vocals. Most impressive might have been guitarist Roddy Radiation, the live set which really revealed how talented a guitarist he is, sweating up buckets to the point where later on in the set he had to go shirtless.
The main set ended with the band's cover of the appropriately-themed "Enjoy Yourself" (Terry singing "Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink, The years go by, as quickly as you wink") which revved up the crowd's spirits for more. Coming back for an encore, the band jumped in with the spooky mellowness, though nonetheless essential, "Ghost Town" and then graciously performed a rarity with "Guns of Navarone" and then ended the night off perfectly, although perhaps with a little teareyedness that it was over, with "You're Wondering Now". As the group repeatedly sung "You're wondering now, what to do, Now you know this is the end" with the audience joining in the singalong enthusiastically, you could have not wished for a more perfect moment.
The Toronto Sun and The Globe and Mail have reviews of the same show, while Eye Weekly and chartattack review the first night's show. Specials bassist Horace Panter share some memories about the shows.
Photos: The Specials @ Sound Academy, Toronto (August 28, 2010)
MySpace: The Specials
Video: The Specials - Intro / Do The Dog / New Era (Live @ Sound Academy - Toronto Aug 28/10) *
* courtesy of karbonbee