When The Specials reformed a few years ago, the comeback concerts were, indeed, special, reflecting the band’s zeitgeist-capturing legacy for a generation of disenfranchised kids.
The Specials - Barrowland, Glasgow
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But that legacy, which ensured those first tentative toes dipped back in the gigging waters became full immersion in the touring circuit, has played itself out over the ensuing years as more of a good-natured, nostalgic knees-up than a vital reminder that the social issues they addressed so eloquently first time round are as pertinent as ever in an era of benefit cuts.
Accepting that dilution of intent, it has to be said The Specials are still a fearsome live proposition when they need to be and a damn good party band the rest of the time. There was, however, a noticeable gap where Neville Staple would ordinarily have been had ill health not prevented him from resuming his charismatic MC duties.
The setlist cleaved rigidly to material from the first two Specials albums, released before the band fractured, becoming the more esoteric, Jerry Dammers-led Special AKA. But what a couple of albums, and how thoroughly they were excavated in this show, which opened with a bullish Concrete Jungle and Do The Dog before the soulful keyboard licks and ska rhythm of Gangsters brought variety (and better sound quality) to the palette. The likes of sunshiney social satire Hey Little Rich Girl, Motown-infused Doesn’t Make It Alright and loungey International Jet Set were a reminder that The Specials have always drawn from diverse sources, but these were just not as well received as signature ska punk favourites such as Do Nothing and Too Much Too Young which have become cosier entities now there is no fierce urgency for the band to prove themselves any more.