The Specials @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall – 9th November 2009

The Specials ( 09-11-09)

Like buses, you wait 30 years for a Specials gig, and then two come one after the other in quick succession. I find myself in the enviable position of witnessing the two best gigs of the decade by the same band within 6 months. The last time was their homecoming concert at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry and they left me truly awe inspired (check out that review HERE).

Tonight at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, as their never ending tour rumbles on, they have lost none of their spark, despite my fears in May that they would end up doing a Status Quo and constantly going through the ‘last ever tour’ scenario, as a way of guaranteeing audience numbers. Part of me does think that the reason the 30th Anniversary spring tour (now to be known as Part 1) was so special, was partly to do with the knowledge that you may never see them again.. that the gigs would become legendary as they were witnessed by but a few.

The Specials

With these reservations and the dread that The Specials may just be bringing us Part 2 to ensure decent Christmas presents for their families, rather than an undiminishable desire to perform, I wait with over 3000 expectant rude boys and girls before a familiar stage set. Their opening visuals are unchanged, but still stunning and it is a joy to see it again; the way the curtains open to reveal a white curtain onto which the band’s silhouettes and shadows are thrown from lights behind them. A slow ‘Enjoy Yourself’ floods into the hall until the white curtain drops and we’re off with a bang and a mass of bouncing bald heads.

The SpecialsThe Specials

The set list is pretty much as it has been all tour, with just a couple of order changes. However, it makes no difference which order these songs are played in really, as the energy is constant from the word go. I keep up with the bouncing crowd around me until part way through “Gangsters” before my knees start to hurt, and that is only the second song. The men around me keep going until half way through the set, but The Specials keep moving until the very end, the sweat pouring from Staples and his T-shirt is a badge of honour; a record of how hard this band continues to work. It makes me think about joining a gym and cutting out the Guinness, but just for a second.

The Specials

Highlights for me tonight are ‘Blank Expression’ and ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’. The months on the road have not dulled these performances one bit, in fact they sound tighter and brighter than they did in May. It could be that any pressure felt by the band at the start of this reunion tour has disappeared, and now they are really in full flow; completely relaxed and firing on every cylinder.
The crowd are equally inspired and the place is transfixed. Terry Hall is clearly happy about this (well, as happy as he can sound) and says: “If this is Wolverhampton on a Monday night, I’m coming back next week… and the week after, and the week after that.”

The Specials

“A Monday night club” adds Staples before the wondrous slow intro to “Nite Klub” complete with spinning mirror ball, which leads to the tempo explosion into the song: it is full on. The band just gets better and better and with a set list that boasts “Too Much Too Young”, “Rat Race”, “Ghost Town”, “A Message to You Rudi” etc it is guaranteed you will not want to blink for a moment. This is really a no filler show: no acoustic versions, no extended remixes, or guitar solos, just great song after great song, played with passion and a real focus. It is hard to believe that words written by teenagers can be performed with the same energy and belief as men who are now nearer 50. I guess this is testament to the quality of the songs and how well they have actually aged. The lyrics are still sharp and as significant now as they were in the early 80’s. I can’t imagine the same could be said in 30 years for many bands enjoying success now.

The Specials

The Specials still have a number of dates left on this Part 2 of the reunion tour and I advise you to do whatever it takes to get a ticket: this is unmissable and could be the greatest comeback of all time.
My only problem tonight is with the venue. The Civic Hall seems incapable of adequately dealing with an audience of 3500 and their needs. So you end up queuing in a long corridor for a beer, burrowing through more queues to get to another queue for the toilet, then dodging and weaving your weary way back to the concert hall… at which point you need a refill or to re-empty. It is not often that you see a queue of 50 men waiting to get into the toilet, but when you finally get in and see enough space for 7 men, you understand why. Surely the Civic can make room for another toilet and a few more drink outlets instead of treating its rock crowds like cattle. But I guess this is still preferable to the bigger, more soulless venues like the NIA and NEC where you can’t stand on your seat, and nachos not beer is the overriding smell. Maybe I am just getting old, and after thinking about it in the cold light of day, I would rather suffer a small amount of discomfort and see The Specials in a venue like The Civic, than to have it sanitized and watered down, endorsed by a multi-national and given away with cola: The Specials are worth much more than that, they are priceless.

Review – Al Neilson
Photos – Andy Watson

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3 thoughts on “The Specials @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall – 9th November 2009

  1. amazing pictures and what a gig, easily in my all time top 10. I was suddenly surrounded by a group of 50 somethings, no hair and I though ‘oh shite’ but as soon as the Specials started we were dancing like old mates, loved it, loved it, loved it!!
    The Civic is one of the best venues in the Midlands, I take your point about the loos and bar, but and it’s a big but, the sound is ace, and you can see from wherever you are, it’s also easy to find, easy to park and cheap to park.
    What a night, my legs have just stopped aching but worth every minute.

  2. What a night, and what a venue. I was a forty something suddenly transported back to my student days of seeing bands at the Civic, same old sticky floor, just like proper live music venues should be. I’m bored with the big stadiums where you need a telescope to see the band, this was a proper gig, I felt like I could reach across and touch them. Such an amazing atmosphere too, real fans dancing their socks off and having the time of their life. Just loved it, and got out the carpark in under 10 minutes, unlike the hour or more it can take at the NEC.

  3. what a night i started the night about three rows from the front but finished it touching the stage my ribs are bruised my clothes were wrecked but i loved every second fingers crossed they tour again in 2010!

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