Fred Perry polo? Check. Braces? Check. Harrington jacket? Check. All set for a night of hopping from one foot to the other, middle aged mosh pits and perpetual shouts of “RUUUDEBOY!”
Opening with ‘Ghost Town’, The Specials immediately create a gulf of experience between their support act and themselves. General Roots are a fresh faced, London based, reggae combo with a confusing membership – without The Minister, an Antiguan Rastafarian with a passion for spreading happiness, they’d look as though they’ve just taken their first steps out of Brit School. The audience takes a little while to warm up, but by the end of the first tune the Guildhall is a sea of bald heads bobbing in absolute unison, apart from the rowdy ones causing havoc at the front.
Terry Hall looks as though he’d rather be anywhere but on the stage, he trudges through each song with as much enthusiasm as a child on the way to the dentist. Lynval Holding, however, cannot hide his love for performing and the music he plays, steaming through hits like ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Stereotype’ and ‘Rat Race’ with the vigour of a man half his age. Halfway through the set the majority of the band leave the stage, while Holding sings a captivating rendition of ‘Redemption Song’ accompanied by guitar, violin and cello. The crowd, with heaving chests and shiny brows, listen intently for the first time in the evening, taking welcome respite from the impressively raucous melee.
The night becomes more and more enthralling, Hall even relaxes enough to insult his audience into submission, ensuring every fan in the sold out Guildhall was safely in the palms of their hands. ‘Monkey Man’, ‘A Message To You, Rudy’ and ‘Enjoy Yourself’ leave the night on a bubbly note, even if the majority of the crowd have blown all their energy in the first hour. The Specials’ ability to write incredible songs and transport a venue full of people back to 1979 will make them a winning and worthy act for the rest of their years as a band.
Words by Maddy Hardman