Photo Credit: Alex Williams
It was no ordinary Saturday night in Liverpool, a ghostly air had descended on the city in the run-up to Halloween and many people had dressed ghoulishly for the occasion, all in the mood for some fun. Luckily for the crowd at The Olympia ballroom, The Specials were on hand to deliver – kicking off their set with uncanny hit ‘Ghost Town’ accompanied by oscillating white lights strewn across the stage to cast eerie silhouettes of the band.
The set bobbed along nicely for a while as the band started building the audience up with some of their slower paced tracks such ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ before guitarist Lynval Golding upped the momentum by declaring “I’m gonna start the dancing” before launching into ‘Rat Race’.
Things really got into full-swing however with a special version of ‘Niteklub’ which was laced with the chorus from Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’. From then on out it was hit after hit after hit with the likes of ‘Gangsters’, ‘Monkey Man’, ‘A Message to You Rudy’, and ‘Too Much Too Young’ all making an appearance with an audience dancing energetically in-tow to their lively ska sound.
They closed their main set with ‘Enjoy Yourself’ and left the stage, but with the audience still hungry for more they quickly came back on with the high-energy ‘Guns of Navarone’ with Golding shouting “Let’s party like it’s 1979!”. After this they briefly took the mood down a notch as they dedicated a touching version of ‘All The Time in The World’ to their recently deceased bandmate, John Bradbury, who had passed away only the year before.
They finally closed with a rendition of ‘You’re Wondering Now’ with Terry Hall leading the audience into an acapella chant of the gentle chorus “You’re wondering now; What to do; Now you know; This is the end”, calling out his “love, love, love…” to an audience that was similarly endearing.
It was at times like these, that the gig felt quite introspective and touching. Earlier in the set they’d also said to the audience “You’re the only thing that keeps us going’ as well as saying “This was our first single, I was 19 when this came out” and “Let’s party like it’s 1979”, which on the surface seem like fine comments, but perhaps signified mourning for their drummer and better times in the past as this was the first tour The Specials had done without him.
Although if that made the gig sound like a sombre affair, then this is couldn’t have been further from the truth. The chemistry between the band members and the amount of fun they were having on stage was staggering as were the good vibes felt in the room by everybody.
After an evening of slinky basslines and vigorous bobbing, The Specials left the stage to rapturous applause, their immense catalogue of hits proving that after all of these years they could still bring the party. They told the crowd to enjoy themselves, and indeed the crowd had.