About the Gig
There are some gigs that go down as legendary, and some gigs that go down as iconic. The Specials at the 100 Club – for the first time ever – fits both categories.
With the club jam packed within half an hour of the doors opening, the audience were treated to DJ sets by Felix Hall and E.T., the latter having DJ'd for the band on their original tours in 1979 and 1980.
With the heat and expectation rising to Jamaican dance hall levels – Mark Lamarr jumped onto the stage to compère the proceedings. As a lifelong Specials fan, he was as excited as the audience to be there and to welcome the band onstage. The crowd went mad as soon as the band were introduced, and on walked Brad, Roddy, Lynval and Nik to kick off the set with "Concrete Jungle", with the noise levels hitting a crescendo as Terry and Neville walked on at the end of the song.
The rest of the set was a continuous stream of groundbreaking and influential songs from "Gangsters", "Rat Race", "Blank Expression", "Message to You (Rudy)", "Too Hot", "Nite Klub", "Man at C&A", "Friday Night/Saturday Morning", "Too Much too Young" and the list goes on... Amazing not just to see such a seminal band in the 300 capacity 100 Club, but to witness such a truly great group of musicians - reminiscent of the golden era of big bands - all so telepathically in tune with each other. With the usual witty banter from Terry with the crowd and impromptu reworking of "Nite Klub" to include 'if you want my body' and 'we are family' the grins were large in the audience.
And that audience was almost entirely made up of competition winners – many of whom took the time to email in to say what a fantastic night they had. We salute you all – as the audience made that night special too.
With a final song of "You're Wondering Now" the band left the stage with the crowd wanting more. There was to be no rendition of "Ghost Town" as in true Specials style, they left that crowd wanting that little bit more. Departing to play to 100,000 people at Glastonbury the following day. The crowd were finally treated to a truly cracking, one hour DJ Set by Mark Lamarr.
There were a couple of very poignant and important reasons for the gig that night. One that will go down in a lot of people's memories as a 'were you at the 100' night. In the bands words, they wanted to 'pay homage to the 100 Club' as they never got to play it the first time round. Also, they were aware the club was in danger of losing its independence and wanted to help out.
Not only did they agree to play, but also donated their fee to the club. An amazing act of generosity on their part. Likewise with Mark Lamarr, a good friend of the club, who also waived his fee to compère and DJ the night.
So apart from another legendary Subculture night at the 100, we also managed to raise some funds that will keep one of the most iconic independent gig venues in the world, and a British cultural icon, in good health for future generations.
The moment was ... well, yes, special. Twenty-nine minutes past nine on Wednesday night, the sticky floor of the Academy was sweating like nitroglycerine, heaving with hope and beer. There were many who hadn't been born when this lot last toured: many other fans, old friends, who took a few seconds to recognise one another, what with their hair having grown back in all those long years as whipsnake jeans, RAF parkas and Attitude morphed into man-boobs and mortgages.
Lights down, a storm of chants, bouncing pogos of expectation: and the curtains slewed back, the night lit up, the sound was back. Straight into "Do the Dog": and from that very first second, we knew we were in the presence of a near-perfect reunion...
The penultimate night of The Specials' five-date sold-out run at Brixton Academy sees the London venue crammed with a mishmash of an audience. A place where aging skinheads, punks, mods and rude boys jostle good-naturedly - an everlasting impact left from the progressive 2 Tone label in the 1970s - and something missing today; the sense of unity in such a diverse crowd in hostile Britain, where little has changed in the last three decades.
Any reunion after nearly thirty years apart could instil fear that the result would be on the ropey side. After half hour of classic 2 Tone hits getting the crowd in the mood, the minimalist black and white backdrop is revealed and the reunited Specials take to the stage. The ebullient Neville Staple and the dour Terry Hall have lost none of their stage presence, and the entire band (minus Jerry Dammers on keys) are as vibrant and energetic as a band half their age. Black and white TV monitors high up relay the action onstage, but the much publicised absence of Dammers doesn't blot a show that sees Hall and Staple the original and greatest masters of social commentary...