With eighteen months of unparalleled uncertainty, it was touch and go when, and potentially even if, the legendary Barrowland Ballroom would open itsRead More
With eighteen months of unparalleled uncertainty, it was touch and go when, and potentially even if, the legendary Barrowland Ballroom would open its doors once again. Now that live music is thankfully back up and running, it is only fitting that the one of the first live shows back at the venue is from The Specials.
There is a noticeable excitement in the air this evening, with the crowd evidently ecstatic at being back under the famous star-studded ceiling. It may a dreary Monday night in the east end of the city, but fortunately crowds at the Barrowlands care not what day of the week it is. The queue for the bar travels the breadth of the dance floor as the band come onstage, with the dress code clearly comprising of polo shirts and pork pie hats.
An airing of ‘Rat Race’ straight off the bat sends the crowd into fever pitch, and the band waste no time provoking the mass chant of “nothing ever change” on ‘Do Nothing’. Classics from their extensive repertoire have been given a new lease of life, with the dark swagger of ‘Stereotype’ an early highlight and bassist Horace Panter gets the opportunity to show off his chops on a wonderful ‘International Jet Set’.
The Coventry legends are here in support of new album ‘Protest Songs – 1924-2012’, a series of covers highlighting the social, racial and political inequalities they have sung about their whole career, and which are still prevalent today. They debut their terrific take on the civil rights song ‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around’ with updated lyrics taking aim at racists and fascists. Lead vocalist Terry Hall ends the song by declaring he’d “rather share my dinner with Afghan refugees, than a couple of cunts like (Nicola) Sturgeon and (Boris) Johnson”, provoking a somewhat mixed reaction from a highly charged room full of Glaswegians. He remains unperturbed being the focal point this evening, looking typically nonplussed throughout the show. Regardless of his expressionless demeanour, his vocal is sharp and the vitriol with which he delivers it is still as passionate as it was in 1979.
His bandmate Lynval Golding is far more restrained with his ire, and instead chooses to compliment Sturgeon this evening. Stripped of guitar-playing duty (the responsibility now shared between Stan Samuel and Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock), he has freedom to focus primarily on toasting and as general ringleader, handling this responsibility with playful glee. He bounds across the stage throughout, constantly geeing up an already manic crowd. Golding takes centre-stage on a stripped back rendition of the Wailers classic ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ accompanied only by Cradock and it is a sombre moment amidst the relentless energy of the rest of the set.
The Specials save the best for last, and the second half of their set is loaded with a barrage of hits. ‘A Message To You Rudy’ predictably provokes the biggest singalong of the night, while the ‘Nite Klub’ and ‘Monkey Man’ are delivered at breakneck speed and the Barrowlands crowd bounce and skank en masse. Even a false start to ‘Too Much Too Young’ doesn’t halt the momentum, even raising a wry smile from the normally deadpan Hall, as he tells the crowd “there’s no rush, we’re not going anywhere”.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The band begin their encore with an irresistible ‘Ghost Town’. The chilling organ pierces through the red hot air, with the lyrics as pertinent today as they were upon release in 1981. As is standard at Specials shows, ‘You’re Wondering Now’ closes the set and Hall turns his microphone to let his adoring faithful chant the refrain unaccompanied. The crowd respond in kind, communally upping the pace and slowing it down again, as the band show a genuine appreciation before going offstage.
The Specials’ relevance has never been in question and tonight’s performance, filled with an abundance of snarling energy combined with terrific fun, suggesting that they will continue to be an unmissable live prospect for many years to come.
A photo gallery of the show is available to view at the following link (All Photographs courtesy of Stewart Iain Fullerton Photography):
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