REVIEW: The Specials, O2 Academy

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RAISING social consciousness or having a good nostalgic knees-up?

Ska legends The Specials prove you can do both, with two sell-out dates at Newcastle’s Academy.

“Newcastle is the best place for skanking,” declared guitarist Lynval Golding, who rejoined the band in 2008 for the third time since it began in 1977, so has certainly seen a few dance moves in his time.

And dancing the crowd was, with a refreshing minority choosing to view proceedings through their smartphone screens.

Instead, the audience of (mostly) men of a certain age and fashion choice relived their youth through ska punk favourites, with a touch of cheerful social commentary, such as Too Much Too Young (teen pregnancy), artfully spooky Ghost Town (unemployment) and A Message to You Rudy (antisocial youth).

They were the ones that sent beer flying and pork pie hats bouncing, but with a set-list of about 25 tunes, there was plenty of scope for a delve into a back catalogue spanning nearly four decades.

Although the songs have remained as firmly in place as the pork pie hats through break-ups, reformations and side-projects, The Specials’ line-up has imploded as their hits exploded on to the music scene.

The gig was missing the toasting skills of original rude boy Neville Staple, who left the band due to ill-health just months before the tour began.

Political stance came full circle for the three-song encore, including Maggie’s Farm, with the Dylan cover becoming a more celebratory anthem in light of recent events.

Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think and You’re Wondering Now wrapped up an energetic 90 minutes of music, more covers which The Specials have made their own.