The Specials, O2 Academy, Newcastle
Matt McKenzie reviews The Specials on the first date of their reunion tour at the Newcastle O2 Academy
TERRY Hall nearly ruined it when he started crowing about Man U being top of the league.
Nearly, although he'd have probably got away with most things given the mass, panting delirium that waited for The Specials before they trotted out to a slow, long blast of Enjoy Yourself.
This, the first date on their furiously anticipated reunion tour, was 90-minute exercise in hysteria.
From the Rude Boy terrace chants that preceded their arrival on stage, to the touchingly obvious adoration lots of middle-aged people still have for this bunch of Cov lads, this whole thing was a treat, Jerry Dammers or not.
You don't need telling about their legacy, their 2 Tone socialism, their place in the UK's musical history, or their fine, fine pop music.
But yes, Terry Hall still has a touch of the career curmudgeon about him. Yes, his voice still cuts it live.
Yes, the brass still oozes warmth despite all of the frenzy. Yes, they're still a band in a rush.
And yes, played live, hurried and stomping, these songs develop flesh and blood.
Prince Buster stood on this same stage a few months back, the pensioner rightly proclaiming himself the inventor of ska.
Funny to think of The Specials as latter day exponents of this music when they split up decades ago, but no-one's really surpassed their interpretations or produced a such a thrilling reggae-inspired music since. And the confidence that brings is never far away.
Too Hot is thoroughly sweaty, and the Maytals' Monkey Man is breathless and frantic.
Most of the hits are here - A Message To You, Rudy, Too Much Too Young, Ghost Town and the rest - all foreboding, all perfectly in keeping with a Britain in the arms of a financial straightjacket.
There might not be riots on the streets of Liverpool or London, but the return of their trenchant, socially-conscious lyricism seems perfectly apt given the blue hue of the next Prime Minister and the bigotry that lingers in our times.
Do what the man said, it's later than you think.
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