With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

The Specials – Barbican, York – Thursday 9th May 2019 May 12, 2019


This was the third time I had seen the Specials, once back in the early days and more recently at this same venue back in November 2016. That 2016 gig was marred by the poor sound quality and a relatively short set from the band. Was it better this time? Well yes, it was, but before I tell you about that you need to know about the spectacularly talented support band the Tuts. Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of this all-girl punk powerhouse of a band from the area of west London that I hail from. They have rather skillfully rechristened themselves a three-tone band for this tour. A support slot like this doesn’t come along too often and it is perfect for the Tuts. I have previously seen them supporting Kate Nash and the Selecter and this is now the seventh time I have seen them play live since February 2014. They simply get better and better every time and I believe that they are still some way from reaching their peak. Nadia, Bev, and Harriet played a rabble-rousing selection of songs from the Tuts debut album ‘Update Your Brain’. Particular highlights were “Always Hear The Same Shit”, “1982” and “Dump Your Boyfriend”. But the song that really set the crowd alight like a Molotov cocktail in a firework factory was “Tut Tut Tut”. Bear in mind that when the Tuts were announced as the support for this tour almost all the shows had sold out so the girls had to win the audience over. They didn’t just win them over they thrashed them into submission to a point where they had no choice but become fans. The energy generated by this band could power a small city. We were given a choice of cover versions and the crowd chose the Clash classic “Rudie Can’t Fail” rather than the Spice Girls “Wannabe”. Personally, I would have been happy with either but the Clash tune won by a landslide and I am sure that the ghost of Joe Strummer was filled with pride by the Tuts version. The Tuts merch stand looked to be doing great business later in the evening with, hopefully, legions of Specials fans now also into the Tuts. I do know that my mate Simon Hernaman purchased the Tuts album on CD. If you have not yet seen or listened to the Tuts you really need to sort your life out and do it. I reckon they are probably one of the best, if not the best, bands in the UK right now. I do know that Nad Tut disagrees with me on that, she told me that they see themselves as the best band in the world and frankly who am I to argue with that! Go Tuts!

Finally, it was the turn of the Specials to take to the stage, they were preceded by a wonderfully exuberant and tasteful DJ set by Saffiyah Khan. The band opened at full pelt with “Man At C & A” with Lynval firing up the crowd from the opening salvo, although to be fair we didn’t need much firing up. There were some inspired selections from their critically acclaimed album ‘Encore’, notably “Vote For Me”, the Valentines cover “Blam Blam Fever” and an impassioned “Ten Commandments” which featured Saffiyah Khan. But the highpoint of the newer material was for me the reworked Fun Boy Three tune “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum” which is still, sadly as highly relevant now as it was when it was originally released back in 1981. The three remaining original members of the band, Lynval Golding, Horace Panter (a.k.a. Sir Horace Gentleman) and Terry Hall were on top form. Hall’s laconic dry humour was on display on pretty much every occasion he chose to speak to the crowd. Special mention must be given to one of the UK’s greatest guitar players, Steve Cradock who added some intense rock sounds to every song. What I have always loved about the Specials is how when they do a cover version it really does become one of their own, particularly in the live arena. The crowd were full on skanking for “A Message To You Rudy” (originally by Dany Livingstone), “Do The Dog” (originally by Rufus Thomas) and it would be an understatement to say that the crowd went apeshit (no pun intended) for a riotously uncontained romp through the Maytals “Monkey Man”. It is the originals from the early days, though, that hit the highest heights for me. “Do Nothing”, “Rat Race”, “Nite Klub”, “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”, “Gangsters” and “Too Much Too Young” still retain nuclear levels of ska punk power. A nineteen song set took us to the inevitable encore and what a treat that encore was. It kicked off with a reggae instrumental jam, I have no idea what the title was. This was followed by another classic that is still as pertinent today as it was nearly forty years ago, “Ghost Town”. This mercurial performance from the Specials was closed with a Skatalites cover “You’re Wondering Now” which also featured Saffiyah Khan. This was a fitting end to a truly great show which proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the Specials have still got it!

 

Public Service Announcement – all the pictures, apart from the tour poster, were taken on my cheap android phone. The videos were found on YouTube. If you would like to be credited or have them removed please let me know.

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The Specials – York Barbican – Tuesday 1st November 2016 November 3, 2016


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Once again I have attended a gig at the York Barbican where the sound was not great quality. Maybe that has something to do with relocating the sound desk to the side of the stage and therefore behind the main audience speakers. The support band for this gig were General Roots, an excellent reggae band from London. Initially I put the sound down to just not allowing sound check for a support band, but I doubt that was the case. They did come across as a very talented band even with the poor sound production. The biggest impact on them was not being able to hear their MC Mr Minister. I particularly liked their songs “Special” and “Walk Tall”. My beautiful wife Catherine (a.k.a. Catwoman) also loved the latter.

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Now i did have some misgivings about seeing the Specials with only three original members left (Terry, Lynval and Horace). I last saw them in around 1980 and I have always felt that Jerry Dammers was the real heart and drive behind the band and I was disappointed that he chose not to get involved in the reunion back in 2008. Dammers had a writing credit on the majority of Specials songs. Having seen them again for the first time in 36 years I don’t believe that this incarnation of the band is a patch on the original line up for the first two albums.

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As with the support band the sound was not of great quality and at times lacked clarity and was a little ‘muddy’. They kicked off their set with “Ghost Town” which was probably their biggest hit based on chart positions around the world. It was also their second UK number one. It remains a great song but as the set progressed I felt like they had played their set list in reverse and in my opinion peaked (if indeed they did peak) much too soon. Terry Hall was by his own admission in a shitty mood and for me this was reflected in his sullen and at times spoilt brat performance. In my opinion I felt like we were watching an average Specials tribute band. There were some highlights, notably Steve Cradock who played to his usual high standards. Lynval’s acoustic rendition of Bob Marley’sRedemption Song” was alright.

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I know that many people will not share my opinion given by the volume of people who sang and danced the night away. But in my opinion this is a band that should not have reformed I think they are a very pale imitation of what they were, more like The Averages than The Specials. Sorry boys but that really wasn’t a great gig in my opinion, I gave it an hour before leaving but I doubt that myself and Catwoman will be coming to see you anytime soon.

 

Paul Weller – York Barbican, Friday 20th March 2015 March 21, 2015


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Paul Weller is without doubt a legend and one of the coolest people in the music business. Even more so now that he has a slightly more normal haircut. Last night at the Barbican was the second time I had seen him perform as a solo artist. I had also seen him as a part of the Jam and as a part of the Style Council back in the olden days. Last night I was there with my good friend John Williams. We both really enjoyed the support band, the Sundowners from the Wirral. I would describe them as something like Fleetwood Mac in a psychedelic mood whilst on some really strong acid. Their lead guitarist is phenomenal. But they are well worth checking out in my opinion.

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As for Mr Weller, well what can I say that hasn’t been said many times before? Not a lot really but I think he is clearly one of the finest musicians of his generation. He and his band maintained a high level of energy throughout the show which was around two hours in total and included two encores. Interestingly he played no Style Council or Jam songs. But then he has such a wealth of solo songs it hardly matters at all. He played some new and relatively new songs; “Saturn’s Pattern” from his forthcoming new album and “Brand New Toy” which was an exclusive Record Store Day release from last year. The highlights for me were storming versions of “Peacock Suit”, “Uh Huh, Oh Yeh” and “From The Floorboards Up” and a really soulful playing of “You Do Something To Me” and “Broken Stones”. However the pinnacle for me came in the second encore when Weller and the band brought the house down with a superbly executed “Changing Man”. I am pleased to say that the sound at the Barbican has improved immensely since my last visit. Paul Weller has picked some great musicians to for this band. Especially Steve Cradock who is an incredibly talented guitarist.

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During the first couple of songs a fight broke out, that is something that I haven’t seen at a gig for a while. Weller remarked that this was ‘just like the old days!’ If I have one complaint it is the hundreds of phones and iPad style tablets that became a constant presence as punters filmed as much as they could. For all of those of you guilty of that I say put your electronic equipment down and watch the gig you morons! If you have never seen Paul Weller the I want to know why? I will definitely be seeing him again sometime!

And finally another one of those pesky public service announcements. None of the pictures or videos in this blog post were taken or filmed by me!

 

 
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