Live Review: THE SPECIALS @ Palace Theatre

11 April 2012 | 11:46 am | Bryget Chrisfield

Then Staple tries to diffuse the situation, declaring: “There’s only one rude boy in here.” Nite Klub transports us to the diet pill-infested allnighters of a bygone era and it’s skank central.

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Despite 30-plus years in existence (on and off), this is only the second time The Specials have toured our great southern land and tonight they attract three levels of slavering aficionados to the Palace. Punters zealously guard their dancing space and we try to look casual on a staircase with a view. There's a lot of the band's trademark black'n'white, police-style check dressing the stage and the backdrop simply reads “SPECIALS”, with LED stacks positioned in front. The Specials are off and skanking with Do The Dog and the former “mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads” in the house immediately burst into action. There's a fairly subdued stage-crossing from singer Neville Staple, but it's enough for the crowd, whose sing-along is deafening. Shifting straight into Dawning Of A New Era, the players sound better than ever and they clearly love watching the sea of punters rampaging down Memory Lane below. Crap, a security guard sweeps us off the stairs so we're forced to dance on the seat of a couch against the wall, craning to see.

Gangsters proves an early highlight and guitarist Roddy Radiation's fancy footwork is emphasised by his two-tone Creepers (black'n'white, of course). Enthusiastic “Ay-ay-ay”s ring through the venue during Monkey Man, further amplifying when Staple teases, “I can't hear you!” The Specials fall instinctively into pleasing visual formations while they play – very photogenic. “Quiet please, quiet please,” rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding chastises, before touchingly dedicating the band's Radiation-penned Rich Girl to Amy Winehouse.

Time to get amongst it down in Pogoland. The fans can't get enough of Staple as Judge Roughneck throughout Stupid Marriage and the floor becomes a trampoline for the closing repetitive lines: “Naked woman, naked man/Where did you get that nice suntan?” This scribe cops an elbow to the eye during Concrete Jungle when the throng claps a pattern out in unison before calling out, “JUNG-AL!” (à la the old school Goodyear tyre ads). By way of banter, Terry Hall instructs, “Blow me a kiss and we'll last forever,” before briefly looking at his watch and announcing, “Done”. They're a pack of Fred Perry gangstas up there. A sax player seems to be negotiating via eye language (his mouth is busy), which out of two front-row ladies is up for it before abruptly leaving the stage. Bottles of water are piffed up to specific punters one level up and, impressively, all intended targets perform classic catches. “I'm so fucking tired, right,” Staple shares. Why would you say that? A Message To You Rudy begins gradually, but our hair is blown back with brass assault before too long. A heckler calls out for Ghost Town. “Relax! It's so fuckin' obvious!” Hall rebukes, which is a tad unnecessary. Then Staple tries to diffuse the situation, declaring: “There's only one rude boy in here.” Nite Klub transports us to the diet pill-infested allnighters of a bygone era and it's skank central.

There's only one encore tonight and no Ghost Town, probably due to Hall's earlier objection to a fan's shouted-out request for same. It's the subject on everyone's lips during the penguin parade on the way out of the theatre and mars this otherwise extra-special performance by The Specials.   

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