Proving they’re still special - The Specials, Alhambra Theatre, October 26, 2016

Still delivering, The Specials.
Still delivering, The Specials.

It’s over 35 years since a group of Coventry musicians, inspired by the possibilities provided by punk, renamed themselves The Specials and launched their Two- Tone manifesto on an unsuspecting public.

Their dark, foreboding snapshots of a politically tense era captured the fractured state of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain arguably better than any other group at the time.

And while much of the political and social landscape has changed in the ensuing three decades, much remains the same.

Opening the Dunfermline show with the brooding, bleakness of Ghost Town, they raised the bar high, pretty much where it remained.

Drummer John Bradbury is now dead, Neville Staples sidelined by poor health and Jerry Dammers still not on speaking terms, but in original guitarist Lynval Golding and bassist Horace Panter they remain the perfect foil for the deadpan, delivery of singer Terry Hall.

Bristling with tension, not made better by failing monitors and brief halt for crowd trouble, it seemed only right that gems such as Stereotype, Do Nothing and Friday Night Saturday Morning, Man at C&A, Doesn’t make It All Right, Little Bitch and Blank Expression complimented the singer’s mood.

Ocean Colour Scene guitarist and Paul Weller sideman Steve Craddock has featured for several years now and provided a sublime acoustic accompaniment for Golding’s tribute to Bob Marley with Redemption Song, before he offered the audience to chance to dance.

Gangsters, Night Club, Do The Dog, Dandy Livingstone’s Message To You Rudy, Concrete Jungle and, of course, Too Much Too Young, were among those that followed, offering further reminder of just how productive the group were in just the three years between 1979-81 that spawned two albums.

A reworking of the Skatalites Guns of Navarone provided an all to brief encore, to a well received show by those present, though singer Hall was presumably already back on the tour bus.

Their songs captured a time and a place in Britain’s past, the gig proved they remain special too.