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The Specials treat Cambridge to 40 years of hits




The Specials at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2019. Picture: Adrian Peel
The Specials at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2019. Picture: Adrian Peel

It was bona-fide classics aplenty from the 2 tone legends at the Corn Exchange on Sunday (May 12), but unfortunately there was no room for arguably their best-known hit.

Coming out on stage in front of a backdrop of slogans such as "We sell hope," "The television will not be revolutionized" and "Non Judgement Day is coming," Coventry's finest received a huge welcome from the packed venue - and there were plenty of chants of "Rude boy!" from the mainly middle-aged audience which continued throughout.

The first song of the evening was Man at C & A, off The Specials' second album, 1980's More Specials. This was followed by Rat Race, a top-five smash also from More Specials.

Needless to say, it provoked a great deal of jumping up and down from a large section of the standing fans.

The groovy Vote for Me was the first song to be played from the new album, Encore, ahead of which guitarist/vocalist Lynval Golding encouraged the audience to "vote for yourself," adding that we'd do a lot better than those currently in power.

Following the death (in 2015) of drummer John Bradbury, there are now, sadly, only three original members of the band in the present line-up - Golding, vocalist Terry Hall and bass player, Horace Panter - and very little was said during the show, with the group, which now features Ocean Colour Scene guitarist, Steve Cradock, preferring to let their music do the talking.

Hall's voice sounded good - there's definitely no mistaking those uniquely downbeat tones - and Panter's bass playing was outstanding, the skilled musician moving around the stage with the energy of a much young man.

Golding's playing and singing added an extra dimension and some of his dance moves were certainly entertaining.

Mournful new song The Lunatics (co-written by original member, Neville Staple) was a highlight, as was the timeless A Message to You, Rudy - another tune to send the crowd into raptures, although Nite Klub and Monkey Man seemed to generate even more hysteria.

Further monster hits, the always excellent Gangsters and Too Much Too Young, were saved until the end of the set, and I naturally expected Ghost Town to follow in the encore. It didn't, which was disappointing.

Due to what I think were time constraints, the encore consisted of two songs: Reggae Jam and You're Wondering Now. If that was the case, surely it would have been better to replace one of these with Ghost Town? Otherwise, no complaints.



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