The spotlights shone out from the stage accompanied by the familiar wailing introduction of ‘Ghost Town’ to herald the arrival of The Specials in Cambridge, many years after their only other performance in the city in the early Eighties (Terry Hall mentioned that on that previous show he was arrested for ‘inciting a riot’!).
‘Ghost Town’ is of course a genuine classic, as relevant as ever and probably one of the most unusual and political UK number ones. Despite the departure of original member Neville Staple and the untimely death of drummer John Bradbury the band make a great sound, tight, hefty ska underpinned by the hammering bass guitar of Horace Gentleman and sterling drumming from Gary Powell of The Libertines.
The signature songs rolled out in the first part of the show; ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’, ‘Rat Race’, much appreciated by the animated audience. Lynval Golding vocalised on a moving version of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ then via ‘Gangsters’ (the song that started it all!) we arrived at the compact masterpiece ‘Too Much Too Young’.
Through it all Terry Hall is the central presence on stage, he doesn’t move much but he really doesn’t need to, the words and delivery say it all. The main set was finished with that strangely optimistic/depressing standard ‘Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think’). How True.
As a tribute to John Bradbury and Leonard Cohen becoming the latest in the long list of losses for 2016 the band encore featured a cover of ‘We Have All The Time In The World’. This was a highlight, sounding reminiscent of Terry Hall’s extensive and excellent solo work in between the original and current incarnation of The Specials.
It has been a long time for the return to Cambridge but it was definitely worth the wait…