Preview: The Specials at Eventim Olympia

By Shaun Ponsonby
Wed 09 January, 2019

The legendary Ska band visit Liverpool on their 40th anniversary tour, and Alan Parry can’t wait. 

So, who remembers cassette tapes?

Back in the old days, that is to say the late 80s and early 90s, my old man had a whole bunch of them spilling out of the glove compartment of his gold Ford Capri. Some were shop bought, a few were mix-tapes, but most were taped CDs.

There was one with Zappa‘s Sheik Yerbouti on the one side, and Dylan‘s Desire on the other; another was a recording of a compilation called Three Minute Heroes, which incidentally is now one of my favourite Spotify play lists.

But my fondest had on side A, Squeeze Singles, 45s and Under, and on Side B, The Specials Singles.

From the age of about seven, I knew all the words to almost every record on each side of that cassette. In 2017, I was lucky enough to get to see Squeeze for the fab team at Planet Slop, for me it was the gig of a lifetime, and almost 30 years in the making. And now, I’m beyond excited at the prospect of seeing The Specials hit Liverpool’s Eventim Olympia on Saturday 27 April as part of their upcoming 40th Anniversary Tour. Just two days after my birthday if anybody wants to send a card.

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According to reports, the band are to release a new LP in February, Encore which promises to include new material, a bunch of covers and a second disc of the best of their live performances. We also know that Ocean Colour Scene’s driving force, and often time Paul Weller collaborator Steve Craddock (who has toured with the band previously) will be appearing alongside Kenrick Rowe on percussion, and Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter.

By the time the band hits Liverpool the tour will be two weeks old, and so they should be firmly in the groove. Although, that somewhat misses the point, as the band have a reputation, certainly among my friends, but also across the wider music scene as being one of the best live acts about.

The band formed in 1977 and could be described as a 2 Tone and Ska revival band, with a distinctly punk edge. The music was, and still is spirited and utterly danceable, but lyrically they were perhaps more socio-political. This is perhaps to be expected.

The country was on it’s knees in the late 70s, and their artistic output was both a response to, and moral compass for many disenfranchised members of the public, especially those of minorities. So perhaps now, in the midst of this political and social wasteland we find ourselves in, the time is ripe for them to return. Too much of what they were complaining about the first time around is either still going on, or has returned. While some acts could be said to be getting the band back together merely to make a few bucks, it will be interesting to hear what these folks have to say.

Or maybe, just maybe, less than a month after we are supposed to have left the EU, we will be encouraged to do nothing for an evening but dance to the synonymous brass and beats we all hold so dear.

The Specials play Liverpool’s Eventim Olympia on Saturday 27th April 2019. Tickets are available now.