The Specials + Lime Cordiale – The Palace Theatre, Melbourne (05/04/2012)

Hailing from the Gold Coast, Lime Cordiale are a group of young, good-looking dudes who play that smooth hybrid genre categorised generally as ‘roots’ music. Appearing as the opening act at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, brothers Oliver and Louis Leimbach, on vocals, guitar and acoustic bass respectively, were backed by trombone and drums as they moved easily between soul, folk, reggae and ska, all the while keeping the vibe smooth and inoffensive.

Those last two adjectives could at one stage have hardly been used to describe tonight’s headlining act, appearing in Australia for the Bryon Bay Bluesfest and as part of their continuing 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour, something which, until four years ago, fans had long given up hoping would happen.

The polo shirts were out in force, mixing with pork pie hats, skinny ties and rockabilly haircuts, as original fans mixed with the younger generation. Eight large letters filled the stage’s backdrop, ‘SPECIALS’, welcoming the Coventry group whose music provided an uneasy soundtrack to Thatcher’s Britain, advocating race relations in a time when the country was at its most divided.

The Specials’ original lineup, unfortunately missing bandleader/songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers, but including bass player Horace Gentleman, guitarists Lynvall Golding and Roddy Radiation, drummer John Bradbury and vocalists Terry Hall and Neville Staple, were filled out by a horn section and keyboardist.

What followed was an incredibly tight set, comprised equally of the punk and ska blend which characterised 1979’s self titled debut, and the jazzier reggae and ska-pop of the second and final album, 1980’s More Specials. The overall sound of the 2012 version of the band is slightly less intense one than appeared on that first album, whilst remaining true to the original arrangements.

The distinct personalities that make up the band, staring up defiantly from the original LP’s cover art, continue to make the group an interesting spectacle to behold onstage. Roddy Radiation, the group’s high-quiffed rockabilly guitarist, performed the majority of the show with his back to the audience, bringing some of the style and attitude of old, whilst on the other side of the stage Golding, sporting a fetching bow-tie, beamed constantly, clearly appreciating being back with his old band.

Having fronted Special Beat, and The Neville Staple Band, as well as being part of Funboy Three, Staple took the role of the energetic frontman, dancing, singing and interacting with the audience, whilst still referring to the group’s lead singer. Hall, on the other hand was an understated figure, mostly preferring to stand to the back of the stage, playing up his role as the sulky, effeminate dandy, his voice noticeably more mature, compared to the high register which featured on The Specials’ recordings.

Highlights from the set included Nite Klub, A Message To You, Rudy, Little Bitch, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, Doesn’t Make it Alright, Stupid Marriage, Stereotype, Gangsters, Enjoy Yourself and Concrete Jungle.

The crowd, many of whom presumably had been waiting a long time to see the band, wasn’t about to let them get away without at least two encores, which included You’re Wondering Now and show closer The Guns of Navarone. Several punters could afterwards be heard to lament the omission of the group’s biggest hit, Ghost Town, which was perhaps strange, considering the crowd-pleasing nature of the set list.

This was a well-rehearsed and polished reunion, a celebration of The Specials’ music. the very fact that the band can now travel the world and fill rooms the size of The Palace, performing to a clearly cross-generational audience and still sound that good, proves just how timeless the songs of The Specials are.

Originally published on FasterLouder on 14/04/12. View original article.

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