Friday, October 14, 2011
This Is It!: The Specials Embark On Final Leg Of Their Reunion Tour
The end is nigh! After 3 years of critically acclaimed, sold out live shows around the world, The Specials are now treating their loyal fan base in the U.K. to one last round of shows. While its hard to imagine that the reunion is finally coming to an end, the fact that the band stuck together as a unit since playing Bestival in September 2008 is testament to the will of the six members to reclaim their legacy and even more to the enduring power of the messages in their songs that still resonate in a world of diminished economic expectations and political and personal relationships that still fail to deliver on their promise. Further it speaks to genuine hunger that music fans have to see and hear great live music that speaks to their heart and soul and moves their feet!
The U.K. tour kicked off in Wolverhampton earlier this week with a few surprises. The band unveiled a large visage of Margaret Thatcher (who still never fails to elicit boos and jeers) along with other images of social unrest and riots that roiled the UK this year as a way to perhaps remind their fans that as much life changes it still remains the same (riots and a Conservative-led government were in power 30 years ago much as they are today). Still playing much of the same set they have for the last three years, the band has included a few chestnuts from the 'More Specials' album (Peal's Cafe with its unforgettable coda of 'Its all a load of bollocks and bollocks to it all!', 'Stereotype' and 'International Jet Set') and apparently have added a string section!
As a fan I will cherish the fact that I did get a chance to see The Specials here in New York last year. I was struck by the pure energy of the band which still rotates around the fixed pole of Terry Hall. Despite his recent profession of good cheer, the night I saw the band, Hall seemed to revert to his moody nature shouting down an unruly fan with a tirade of expletives and then hurling a mic stand in anger across the stage. Later, after water spilled in front of his mic stand, he stopped the band in the middle of a wonderful version of 'You're Wondering Now' to take his shoes and socks off. After padding around the stage in his bare feet he watched in dismay as Neville Staple deposited the socks into the audience! Whether is was genuine behavior or theatre, it didn't matter as it added to overall experience of the show. I was also amazed by guitarist Roddy 'Radiation' Byers rock god moves and searing leads and Lynval Golding's energetic runs across the stage. Later, I had the pleasure of meeting keyboardist Nik Torp (who ably fills the big shoes of Jerry Dammers) and saxophonist Drew Stansell who also joined my band Bigger Thomas a few nights later for covers of 'Nite Klub' and 'Monkey Man'.
When all is said and done, I believe that The Specials reunion was a unique blue print for how a reunion can be managed. While many fans remain disappointed that Jerry Dammers did not join his band mates or that the band decided to focus on playing songs from their catalog rather than record new ones was ultimately an afterthought to a band that sought to play shows at both small intimate venues as well as large outdoor festivals. The philosophy seemed to be 'give the people what they want' and on that the band has delivered again and again. To that end, if you want to re-live the memories of a show you've seen on the current tour or want to hear the band live, you can purchase live CD's that the band are selling on their website. A very limited edition box set of the entire tour is also in the works.
Below is a video shot by Paul 'Willo' Williams who is the admin of The Specials fan forum The Specials2.com. In the video he asks each member of the band to share their favorite memories of the reunion.