Review and Photography by Mark Loraine

Tonight is crackling in the O2 in Sheffield, positively crackling. The Specials are here for a sell out date on their Encore 40th Anniversary Tour and by the looks of it every Tyke that has ever been a fan (that’s a Yorkshireman for those not in the know) is out in force… and then some.

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But first there is the minor matter of the support act… and how diverse can you get from an ageing bunch of Ska men then a trio of sparkly dressed girls playing what can only be described as Rawk. The Tuts were hand picked by one Terry Hall to be the support on this tour and as the lead singer points out they fulfil all criteria, being Asian, white and black. Quite a mix and mix it does, well, to the point where it seems the crowd has forgotten (for a moment) who they came to see.

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It doesn’t last long though as The Specials take to the stage amid rapturous applause and shouts of “Rude Boy!” The Specials tonight are, as was pointed out to me, not the same, in fact I think they only have two original members in Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, never the less they sound brilliant and no-one can say that Steve Craddock isn’t a master of the guitar in his own right and just adds to the band tonight.

The premise of this tour is the 40th Anniversary of the band’s first tour, that and the launch of their latest album, Encore. The result is a massive mix of old and new, from the old we have such classics as Gangsters, Too Much Too Young and the finale Ghost Town. The new comes in the form of tracks such as Blam Blam Fever (my favourite from the new album) and 10 Commandments which sees the band joined on stage by Saffiyah Khan, she of anti EDL fame.

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It’s strange but a relative stated that The Specials had become too political but for me comparing new and old I reckon the balance is about the same. Some songs are political, some are social commentary. What they do have in common is that they sound great.

By the end of the evening the whole of the O2 is bouncing in unison, the place is hot, sweaty and slightly menacing, but it is a fabulous 2 Tone atmosphere reminiscent of the days in the 80s when the band first held court. For me, little has changed other than Dammers and co leaving. These guys remain very much The Specials.

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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