On 3 November, you may have wondered what happened to all the bald fat middle-aged bouncers that normally obstruct your entry into London nightclubs. Mystery solved, they were re-living their rude-boy youth at The Specials gig in Ally Pally. When I turned up, I looked at the sea of pork-pie hats, Fred Perry Polo shirts, braces, tight bleached jeans and Doctor Martens, and thought, oh shit, this is going to make an evening with the Pogues look like a night at the opera. As it turned out, however, Ally Pally was probably the safest place to be that night.
The support act, Stone Foundation, wearing their sixties northern soul influences on their sleeve, (and also referencing Beatles, Tony Christie and Dexys Misnight Runners) were surprisingly good (they are playing Camden Barfly on 9 December).
The Specials came on stage after a photographic montage sequence of events since they split up in 1981, starting with Maggie Thatcher and ending with David Cameron, accompanied by the theme tune to 70s TV series the Pretenders (rubbish thriller series with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, but with the best theme tune ever) and lots of booing from the crowd. Boos turned to cheers as rhythm master Lynval Golding, lead vocalist Terry Hall and co launched their set with ‘Gangsters” and ran through a greatest hits set for the next hour and a half including “A Message to you Rudy,” Too Much too Young,” “Rat Race,” “Do Nothing,” and Ghost Town.” Golding and Hall paid tributes to the BBC, who first broadcast at Ally Pally 75 years previously, and Amy Winehouse, dedicating ‘Concrete Jungle’ to her memory, and also performing ‘Monkey Man.’
A great gig. Shame that main songwriter Jerry Dammers hasn’t rejoined, but the rest of the band were in fine form.