Reunited and It Feels So Good

April 22nd, 2010

The Specials – Terminal 5 – April 21, 2010

The Specials - Terminal 5 - April 21, 2010
It’s been more than 25 years since the original lineup of this influential British ska band toured the United States, and at their sold-out show at Terminal 5 last night, the reunited Specials played, sounded and dressed just as sharp (if not sharper) as I imagine they did in their early years. By the end of opening song, “Do the Dog,” from their 1979 self-titled debut album, the Specials had danced, jumped and bounced their way all over, with lead singer Terry Hall anchoring the group center stage as strobe lights flashed around him.

The Specials have always been defined by the progressive messages in many of their songs, and as the band’s black and white members jovially slung their arms around one another, singing, “Just because you’re a black boy/ Just because you’re a white/ It doesn’t mean you’ve got to hate him/ It doesn’t mean you’ve got to fight” in the song “Doesn’t Make It Alright,” it was disquieting to realize that although these words were written in the 1970s, the message still needs reinforcing. While barraging us with spot-on performances of favorites like “A Message to You, Rudy,” “Little Bitch” and “Blank Expression,” Hall’s entertaining onstage antics were a balance of petulance and humility, at one point happily singing barefoot until a bandmate playfully tossed his socks into the crowd, at which point Hall halted the song completely: “They were the last pair of socks I’ve got. Seriously, can I have my socks back?”

Yet other moments found Hall graciously thanking the fans, ducking backstage to retrieve an armful of water bottles for the crowd, thirsty and sweaty from skanking and slam dancing. The Specials closed their set with a rendition of the instructive number “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).” Their energetic performance perfectly illustrated the song’s theme and should be an example for all those younger bands that perform while frowning and sluggishly strumming the entire time. The Specials have always had the right attitude, and it was exhilarating to watch them heed their own advice and enjoy themselves. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Kirsten Housel