Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ripple Field Report - The Specials/Little Hurricane Fox Pomona 3/20

What would it be like to see a band that truly defines a particular genre? Imagine the possibilities: dodging spitballs and projectile beer at some bowling alley in Memphis during the Pistols’ North American tour; sweating it out in a Queensbridge park watching Marley Marl work the turntables while insulting BDP’s Bronx lineage at every opportunity; maybe being fortunate enough to have caught Dylan go shockingly electric at the Newport folk festival back in 1965.  Heady stuff, no?

Having the privilege to stand among the adoring faithful when The Specials reunion tour rolled through Pomona late last month comes damn close.  The Coventry natives capture the essence of the ‘two-tone’, bi-racial English ska movement of the late 70s- early 80s better than any other band – the English Beat, brilliant in their own right, branched off significantly into other genres and thus cannot be so easily categorized, and Madness and the Selecter cannot possibly be shelved in the same lofty regions.  The Specials aren’t just synonymous with the style; it would be impossible to conceive of it without their presence.

A jawdropping 35 years after their heyday they barely missed a step at the perfectly sized Pomona Fox on March 20.  Founding member vocalist/catalyst/whirling dervish Neville Staple was sidelined from this reunion circuit due to health concerns, and original composer/keyboardist Jerry Dammers is long gone, but otherwise the band delivered an energetic set dripping with nostalgia that left the crowd deliriously satisfied and for all intents and purposes transported back to a dancehall in the Midlands circa 1981.  Reluctant frontman Terry Hall gripped the mic stand and peered slyly at the audience like he knew the winning tickets to next week’s lottery, but couldn’t for the life of him figure out why a bunch of twentysomethings from Southern California were still screaming raucously in appreciation of the band’s uptempo signature anthems like “Do the Dog”, “Monkey Man” and “Concrete Jungle”.  Even more compelling were the band’s treatment of more introspective, original pieces with somewhat subtle messages to deliver like “It Doesn’t Make it Allright”, “Too Much too Young”, and the enchanting, initial encore “Ghost Town”, one of the band’s most enduring highlights.

Rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding admirably filled in for Staple in the backing vocal/toasting/crowd banter department; whatever he washed down his dinner with should be bottled and sold next to the Red Bull special editions, because he bounded around the stage with reckless abandon belying his mid-60s youth.  Particularly impressive as well was bassist Horace “Gentleman” Panter, admirably taking a few star turns at centerstage while anchoring the band’s bread and butter rhythm section.

Opening were San Diego up-and-comers Little Hurricane.  The duo might have been physically dwarfed on stage by the fairly massive instrumental backdrop awaiting the Specials, but once they blurted out a few bluesy riffs from their stellar debut Homewrecker, they seemed larger than life.  Keep a lookout in these hallowed web pages for the results of an impending interview with these surefire headliners, where they will be asked point blank to respond in a few succinct words to the ubiquitous White Stripes comparisons.

--Rhythm Slayer

1 comment:

Kerry Ann said...

Sounds awesome....back to the eighties in the best possible way. Hope they make it to the Southeast for me!

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