I think I’ve seen more SKA bands in the last few weeks than I have in the last decade. From the Ska heavy roster at Pouzza Festival to tonight, where I experienced the legendary Ska band The Specials at The Corona Theatre.
While SKA originated in the late 50s, my introduction to the genre came during the third wave, in the 80s. I enjoyed some of the more punk infused SKA bands but I also loved the 2 Tone genre of The Specials along with Madness and the English Beat.
First up tonight would be Lookman Adekunle Salami, a.k.a. L.A. Salami. L.A. fit right in with the protest backdrop, in his bright jumpsuit. He channeled Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan playing his guitar and you couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the whole thing. It felt almost surreal.
Unfortunately, most the fairly packed Corona was talking loudly, which meant I could hardly hear the performance. L.A. said after the show that it happens more often than you would think. It’s a shame because I’m sure his voice, in a hushed theatre, would be bone chilling.
At least I got a vinyl of his latest release, The City of Bootmakers so I can appreciate it without the backdrop of concert chitchat.
While most 60 year old’s are sleeping by now, Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, Horace Panter and the rest of the band were ready to get the party started. It would be Lynval that had the most charisma and energy, along with bassist Horace who would often come to the front of the stage to get the crowd energized and clapping.
Terry was the one that seemed to not want to be there. After a little research on the band, I found that he suffers from depression. The song “The Life and Times (of a Man Called Depression)” off the new album Encore deals with just that subject.
For Terry to be here at all, considering that fact, is remarkable. It’s probably a constant battle just to show up.
They started with “Man at the C&A” which warned of a nuclear attack. It would be a dance attack that would sweep us, but gradually, hitting full momentum at around the halfway mark.
By the time they got into “Embarrassed By You”, you could see small mosh pit pockets here and there.
Next, “Blank Expression” turned into a sing-along and the momentum was picking up which grew exponentially with “It Doesn’t Make It Alright” where the audience was singing along to the chorus.
The mosh pit had swelled in size, mostly led by the newest generation of SKA fans, while the vintage fans encircled them, happy to leave without bruises.
A few in the mosh pit where more or less sloshed. Probably more. All in all, they seemed to have a great time, feeding the band with energy.
“A Message To You” was played as memories rushed back from the 80s and 90s. You can’t help but feel happy when listening to SKA. It has a summer vibe and a smile just appears on your face.
The Specials were joined on stage for “10 Commandments” by Saffiyah Khan. Defiant Saffiyah was smiling as she faced the rage of an English Defence League activist outside the Birmingham Library on April 8, 2017. Her picture went viral and because a symbol of the city “standing up to the far-right group.”
Of note was the t-shirt she was wearing: The Specials. The band reached out to her and one thing led to another and Saffiyah’s “10 Commandments” made it on the record. Her contribution, an altered version of The Ten Commandments of Man” by Prince Buster, was sung with female power. The song would spark controversy for those that don’t take the time to understand the point of view and deeper meaning of the lyrics.
Unlike her silent stand-off in the face of hate, she let loose her new commandments. She did this not only on stage but entered into the vortex of the mosh pit.
The Specials next turned The Corona Theatre into a “Nite Klub”, one of the best songs of the night. I was on the edge of the mosh pit and every cell in my body wanted to go in there and let loose. The baton was passed to the younger generation, I simply enjoyed my spot and danced away.
It was impossible not to dance. The music could wake me from a deep coma and get me to move (results may vary…consult your doctor first before trying this)!
Non-stop dancing till “Too Much Too Young” ended the set.
They returned with a Skatalites cover of “Eastern Standard Time” which Lynval told us would put a smile on our faces. It also got us all moving once more.
“Ghost Town” is right up there as one of my favorite SKA songs. This song could easily turn into an 8 minute jam session.
Saffiyah Khan joined the band to end the night with “You’re Wondering Now”, another Skatalites cover.
It was truly a dance hall vibe tonight. Lynval and Horace really shined tonight and Saffiyah injected to youthful energy to the group.
It’s quite something for a band to produce new music after such a long hiatus, but they did, and we soaked it all up.
If I only had one word to describe tonight, you know where I’m going with this…it would be: Special.
Photos: Kieron YatesShare this :