The Specials at The Olympia Theatre – Review
“You look amazing and some have you even made an effort,” is Terry Hall’s deadpan greeting to a very enthusiastic Dublin crowd after Ghost Town had opened proceedings in The Olympia with it’s quirky sci-fi licks being traded between brass and string sections. The delirious crowd didn’t seem to pick up on his sarcastic tone though. They were just intent on dancing in the aisles to some of ska’s finest tunes and dance they did, moshing up the front in a manner that was maybe unbecoming of some people of that age and dancing in the aisles of the balconies. But hey, what harm. These people were out to enjoy themselves on a cold Monday night and what better way to do that than to The Specials’ back catalogue?
Hall does come across as a bit of a jaded, grumpy old man but some of his one liners tonight are quite entertaining and add a nice counter-balance to guitarist Lynval Golding’s more frantic stage manner. It’s left to these two to lead proceedings these days, with Neville Staple having once again departed the group. While Staple’s toasting is missed, the band still deliver a solid set that goes down well with the sold out crowd. Also missing is lead guitarist Roddy Radiation, with his place being taken by Steve Craddock from Ocean Colour Scene. An unusual choice maybe but Craddock acquits himself well and adds something interesting to the band’s sound, notably with a roaring flange-assisted solo on Concrete Jungle and some rock-god riffery under the spotlight during Rat Race, a song so good that even Terry seemed to enjoy it. Lynval also seems quite enamoured with Craddock, repeatedly telling the crowd how happy he is to be playing with him and dubbing him ‘Sir Steve’. Craddock edges ever further back from the front of the stage during these tributes looking embarrassed, knowing that he’s the one that should be indulging in the Wayne’s World style ‘we’re not worthies’ rather than the other way round.
Concrete Jungle comes after knockout one-two of Gangsters, featuring John Bradbury’s glorious rolling drum licks, and a rabble rousing Monkey Man. With a back catalogue of such quality and a room full of hardcore dedicated fans, this gig couldn’t really fail. All the big guns are brought out over the course of the evening. Nightclub showcases Horace Panter’s slap bass skills and Hall jokingly throws in a bit of Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? at the end. It doesn’t quite fit but it’s fun all the same.
There’s possibly more subversive humour on show before Pearl’s Cafe. ‘Water, you can’t live without it,” declares Hall before launching into a song that includes the refrain ‘It’s all a load of bollocks’. Does Terry have his finger on the pulse of the Irish Water debacle or is it just a happy coincidence? We prefer to believe the former even if it is probably the latter.
The main set is closed with the mass singalong of A Message To You Rudy and Too Much Too Young before the band leave the stage and a football style chant of ‘Specials, Specials’ brings the band back out for Lynval to the Mariachi mayhem of Guns of Navarone, a song that Terry tells the crowd he loves when he reemerges because, “It gives me the chance to masturbate backstage.”
Alright Terry steady on. It was a good gig; but orgasmic? That’s maybe taking things a bit far.