There wasn’t meant to be another Wind Back Wednesday this year, but then there wasn’t meant to be another loss for music fans, droll deadpan fans, those fighting racism, fascism and classism, and people who could appreciate a bit of Coventry any time.
Yesterday’s news that Terry Hall, of The Specials, Colourfield, Fun Boy Three and (via a co-write sometimes) associations with The Go-Gos and Gorrilaz, had died at the age of 63, cast a pall over the end of year shenanigans. He did good work, was a good man, and by all accounts had found inner and outer peace during the final third of his life.
Meanwhile, Wind Back Wednesday put on a suit, tie and hat for a final skank during the reformation tour of The Specials in 2009. And we all tips our lid.
Enmore Theatre, July 27, 2009
THE DRUMMER AND THE BASS PLAYER, sharp angled and sharply dressed, look like they might have been sent by the guv’nor for a quiet word in your shell-like about settling your debts, sharpish. The guitarist looks like he wants to sell you a few ‘igh quality watches, nothing dodgy, all top shelf, orright?
The toaster and the second guitarist/vocalist look as if they would be the coolest uncles you ever had: smartly attired and lively, always smiling with just a hint of naughtiness. And the main vocalist has the doleful look of the MOT clerk, grade 4 (for 20 years), whose job it is to tell you that the computer says no.
But hey, they are no odder or more disparate than the audience which stretched from 40 and 50somethings (some only just squeezing back into black suits/white shirt/thin tie outfits with porkpie hats), to a fair smattering of twentysomethings (some in rolled up jeans, braces and flat top haircuts) to a three-year-old (with sturdy earmuffs and ear-to-ear grin), all of whom jumped, sang and, where space permitted – and there was precious little space – skanked mightily for 90 minutes.
The Specials, marking their 30th anniversary with a belated first visit to Australia, are in theory another nostalgia act, reliving that melding of Jamaican rhythms and English music hall which once defined the parts of the UK not cauterised or Thatcherised.
But theory has little to do with it when, from the urgent rush of the opening Do The Dog, through the film noir-meets-beach party skip of Gangsters and the up-and-at-‘em Rat Race, to the sheer pleasure of ska pop’s most entertaining moral lecture-with-trombone-solo, Message To You Rudy, what strikes you most about this show is not just how well everyone plays but how much everyone is into it.
And that everyone includes the famously dour-faced Terry Hall, he of the pungent social commentary and once-taciturn stage presence, who was as energised in his own way as the seemingly battery-operated Lynval Golding and Neville Staple. My wife even claims she saw Hall smile once. No, really.
There were a few qualified failures, one of them being Ghost Town which didn’t have the menace or spookiness required and may be the one song where the absent songwriter/theorist/keyboard player Jerry Dammers might have worked some extra magic. But what made more sense was the advice they closed with: enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.