by John Curley—From the first notes of “Do The Dog,” the opening song of The Specials’ second sold-out show at New York City’s Terminal 5, the crowd was totally into it, pogo dancing, pumping their fists, and singing along at the top of their lungs with every word. The Specials—the ska legends from Coventry, England—had been away for 29 years, and the New York City crowd welcomed them back with open arms. This show, which took place on Wednesday, April 21st, was part of a brief trip to America for The Specials. They will do a larger North American tour later this year.
The Specials have regrouped in various forms a few times since the original band split in 1981. But this lineup is the most complete of the band’s original membership since the 1981 breakup. Original keyboardist Jerry Dammers declined to participate in the current reunion. The Specials’ current lineup includes Terry Hall (lead vocals), Neville Staple (backing vocals), Lynval Golding (rhythm guitar), Roddy Byers (lead guitar), Horace Panter (bass), and John Bradbury (drums). They are augmented by Nik Torp on keyboards as well as a horn section.
On stage, The Specials are a study in contrasts. Lead vocalist Terry Hall remains rooted to the spot, barely moving at all as he sings. Conversely, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding are constantly in motion, bounding around the stage with both the energy and exuberance of schoolchildren. They are an amazing band to see live.
The 90-minute set that The Specials delivered was very impressive indeed. It consisted of a 20-song main set and a three-song encore. All of The Specials’ songs that were hits in America—“Monkey Man,” “Rat Race,” “Gangsters,” “A Message To You Rudy,” “Too Much Too Young,” and “Ghost Town”—were performed at the show. However, one of the biggest hands of the night went to “Concrete Jungle,” a song for which lead guitarist Roddy Byers provided the lead vocal.
The crowd at the concert was a show unto themselves. Many of them were dressed in The Specials’ trademark two-tone gear. The age range in the crowd ran the gamut from those that were born long after The Specials’ breakup to those who were fans back in the day. Interestingly, it was the older members of the crowd that were most demonstrative at the show. It appeared that they were welcoming back a long lost friend with every bit of excitement that they could muster. And this excitement created a fantastic atmosphere for the gig. In fact, The Specials did a third song in the encore, “Long Shot (Kick De Bucket),” that was not on the set list. It may have been the band’s way of rewarding the crowd for being a great audience.
When the band was leaving the stage at the end of the show, Lynval Golding joked, “See you in another 29 years.” Although it had been many years between appearances in New York City for The Specials, they proved at Terminal 5 that they have lost absolutely nothing off of their fastball. They could blow bands half their age off the stage. If you closed your eyes, you could easily think that you were listening to a live recording of The Specials in their late 1970s/early 1980s heyday. They were that good.
The set list for The Specials’ show at Terminal 5 in New York City on Wednesday, April 21st was as follows:
Do The Dog
(Dawning of) A New Era
It’s Up To You
Hey, Little Rich Girl
Doesn’t Make It Alright
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
Man At C&A
A Message To You Rudy
Too Much Too Young
You’re Wondering Now
Long Shot (Kick De Bucket)