CONCERT REVIEW : The Specials Barrowland Ballroom, 6th Sept 2021

Photo Credit Stephen Wilson

The Specials Barrowland Ballroom, 6th Sept 2021 


The Specials juggernaut rolled up the M74 along the Freedom Highway to the famous Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow once again to promote their latest record.  Supported by Dexy’s Midnight Runners founding member Pete Williams, the night promised so much for the packed, sell-out crowd and both acts didn’t fail to deliver.

First up was Pete Williams.  The ex Dexy’s man with his band warmed the crowd up nicely, with some anecdotes between songs, and try as the audience might, the band managed to resist the temptation to burst into Geno, even if just for old time’s sake.  His short set was well received, and set the evening off perfectly for the main act.

The Specials were one of the top names of the Two Tone / Ska revival back in the late 70s, and split around 82, when members Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynvyl Golding formed The Fun Boy Three.  Tonight they are back in the former band, minus Mr Staple and a few other originals, only Hall, Golding and bassist Horace Panter remain, however the music is as relevant now as it was back in the day.  Tonight’s set is a mix of new songs from the forthcoming Protest Songs record, some from the recent Encore album and all the classics from the self-titled, debut album and 1980 follow up More Specials.

Opening with latest single Freedom Highway, the tempo was set with the band in full flow, Bassist Panter on hand claps and Golding along with backing vocalist Hannah Hu performing an impromptu Strictly Come Dancing on the Barrowland stage.  Big smiles all round.  Followed by big hits Rat Race, Do Nothing and b side Friday Night, Saturday Morning, the vocal assist provided by the crowd were now at full pitch.  Lynvil Golding announced before Vote For Me of the bands attempt to get First Minister Nicola Sturgeon elected as Prime Minister, which was greeted by as many jeers as cheers, not a popular statement for the guitarist to make, stick to the music Lynvyl, politics and Glasgow is a touchy subject, dontcha know!

The Specials last visit to this venue included a stage setup draped with flags and banners of protest, this time around it’s a plain backdrop, allowing the music to do the protesting, which is exactly how the new album works.  12 covers of protest songs from throughout the years with a Specials twist on it, and a few are showcased this evening.  Freedom Highway, Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around, Get Up, Stand Up and 1st song of the encore Fuck All The Perfect People, interspersed with the standards Stereotypes, A Message To You, Too Much Too Young and the magnificent Gangsters, the song that started it all off for the Coventry band.

The encore finished with the bands second number one UK single Ghost Town, and final track We Sell Hope and another Specials gig was over.  The crowd dwindled away into the Glasgow autumn evening hot and sweat and no one would be disappointed.  The Specials are on fire, they’re still a big deal with plenty to say, and for music lovers of all ages it’s a gig to catch if you can. 

Review and Photograps by Stephen Wilson