Gig review: The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds

Terry Hall of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Terry Hall of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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QUITE remarkable. Forty years after their formation, The Specials rocked up in Leeds and produced a brilliant performance which had their adoring fans dancing, skanking and longing for more.

Gigs are great places for people watching and this sold-out crowd largely consisted of folk in their fifties or sixties who had raided the wardrobe for their old Harrington jacket, braces and band T-shirt to relive the sound of their youth with Terry Hall and co.

Lynval Golding of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Lynval Golding of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

And what a sound it was.

Granted, the band in its current guise only features three original members – lead singer Hall, bassist Horace Panter and guitarist Lynval Golding.

Nevertheless, they performed some well-established classics, along with some surprisingly good new tracks, to the backdrop of “vote”, “think” and “the revolution will not be televised” placards.

You might think that a band who started in 1977 would struggle to remain politically relevant decades later.

Steve Cradock and Horace Panter of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Steve Cradock and Horace Panter of The Specials at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

But in reality, some of their hit songs written 40 years ago such as Ghost Town or The Lunatics find new relevance in today’s political and social climate.

The Specials’ message is one of peace, of bringing people together and fighting injustices as a collective, but also dancing to brass and a jumping beat the whole time.

Now the time feels right for a return; for their voices and biting social commentary to be heard once again.

Politics aside, the 2 Tone band remain as tight as ever and the packed-out crowd was skanking from start to finish.

The whole set was mixed up perfectly and classics such as Rat Race, A Message To You Rudy and Ghost Town are rapturously received by the raucous crowd.

The show was part of the band’s 40th anniversary tour and also marked their most recent album Encore, only their third studio album.

Having seen them for the first time, I can say that they are fully deserving of their reputation as one of the finest live acts about.