Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

Forming in Coventry in 1977, these guys were a legendary part of the 2 Tone and ska scene if the time. Truly dance-able with lyrics of a political and social stance, they broke with tracks such as ‘Too Much Too Young’ and the unemployment themed spooky ‘Ghost Town’ – a track that hit the top spot in the UK charts. In two years they shone brightly, with seven UK top ten singles, before three members left to form Fun Boy Three, with the rest continuing on as the Special AKA. In 2008, they reformed and have been touring ever since. Welcome to Wolverhampton tonight – The Specials.

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Wolverhampton Civic, is part way through a multi-million pound refirb. Much of the cire services (electrical and stuff) have been done, and it’s closing it’s doors from mid December again, for completion of the refit, including an additional mezzanine floor. This means upstairs the walls are stripped back to brick – waiting for the work to start. Collection tins are out tonight too – encouraging the punters to donate to ‘Medicine Sans Frontiers.’

Support tonight comes from General Roots  – who, according to their website are a group of close friends who have a passion for reggae music. This band of six include the McKone brothers; James and Ben on drums and bass, Field Marshal Fred on lead vocals alongside the vibes controller, The Minister. Guitar is Joe Price and on keyboards, Sam Ross. Fun and funky, they keep the crowd entertained for half an hour.

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So to The Specials. Reforming for a one off surprise gig at Bestival in 2008, the fans and the band got the bug – and they’ve performed at over 200 live shows since including Coachella (US), Summersonic / Fiji Rocks (Japan), Lalapalooza Festival, (Chile), Montreal Jazz Festival (Canada), as well as Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and the closing set of the Olympic Games Festival in Hyde Park in 2012. And tonight’s gig is also sold out.

The crowd are in an upbeat mood tonight singing along to backing tunes waiting for the band to take to the stage…” You sheltered me from harm….. I would give everything I own, And I would give anything I own, Give up my life, my heart, my home, I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again….”

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Siren’s up and we start up with ‘Ghost Town.’ And the party’s started. The set rolls with all the hits, exactly what the doctor ordered for the fans here tonight. ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning.’ ‘Man at C&A’ (remember that department store?) and a bizarre warning about nuclear attack and world war three.

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The Specials are tight, and fun, even though in reality there is just three of the original line-up on tonight’s stage. Lynval Golding, Horace Panter and Terry Hall are still there, joined by Tim Smart, Drew Stansell, session musician and  long time member since the 2008 re-incarnation Nikolaj Torp Larsen, Pablo Mandleson, Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock. After the tragic loss of founder member John (Brad) Bradbury in 2015, they are joined in stage by The Libertines drummer – Gary Powell.  If nothing else that makes a very busy stage with the number of band members!

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All the hits are there tonight and some  – ‘ Rat Race’, debut single ‘Gangsters’, ‘Message to You, Rudy’, and of course ‘Too Much Too Young’ their own stuff and covers, completed by the usual ‘ You’re Wondering Now.’

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A set for the fans – ticking all the buttons for a great gig with all the hits and more than they could desire.  You could say that tickets at nearly £50 per head were on the pricey side, however the punters tonight loved it, the band of brothers on stage were high energy and giving it some, and the crowd danced and sang the night away.  This version of The Specials are a class act – great songs, well written and performed, and one of a few bands who can take a classic song and make it their own.

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