Monday, May 20

Specials concert lacks excitement


Specials concert lacks excitement

Despite good set, Palace show fails to rev up audience

By Gaby Mora

Daily Bruin Staff

The most disappointing aspect of the Specials show at the Palace
Friday night was the crowd leaving thinking they had seen the best
of this legendary ska band.

In contrast to the smiling fans that poured out of the venue by
10:30 p.m., the band members backstage realized their Los Angeles
stop was a disappointing dent in an otherwise successful national
tour.

It’s hard to say what went wrong. Since blowing away the
European, and later American, club scene with their merge of punk
and reggae in the 1980s, The Specials have always remained at the
top of the underground ska movement. And with a good song line up
Friday, they played a solid set. But no matter how good the music
sounded, something was just missing.

As the opening group, Let’s Go Bowling, walked off stage, their
first repeated words were, "I hate playing L.A." And although L.A.
seemed to like Let’s Go Bowling, and clearly loved The Specials,
the audience just wasn’t able to give them the energy to feed off
of and deliver a stellar show.

With four of the original members: lead vocalist Neville
Staples, lead guitar and vocalist Roddy Byers, bassist Horace
Panter and guitarist Lynval Golding ­ the reuniting of The
Specials is the most exciting thing to happen since the Skavoovie
tour last year with Special Beat, Selector, the Skatelites and the
Toasters.

"If anybody would have told me thirteen years ago that in 1994 I
would be playing all those songs again to even more American people
than fifteen years ago, I would have probably poured some liquid
over them, or thrown a bottle at them," says Panter, who worked as
a grade school teacher before reuniting for the tour. And although
the transition may seem odd to some, he laughingly explains, "I
figured that after having spent 15 years working with the
musicians, working with children wouldn’t be that difficult."

The only difficult thing was trying to figure out why after such
a rewarding performance in San Francisco on Wednesday, L.A. had
fallen flat. Panter tried to be optimistic before taking the stage
on Friday, "Last night was a bit quiet compared to some of the
other shows we’ve done, I must admit. But we’re at the end of a six
week tour, and it’s the first tour that the majority of us have
done in a couple of years. So we’re like sort of digging down to
get our energy for the gig, and its getting a bit grueling. But
once we’re there with the audience we go all out, like grrrrrrrrrr,
and then they get it back."

Unfortunately, the only thing the audience got back was almost a
pleading from the band to stop hurting each other and liven up.
Rounded out by keyboardist Mark Adams, drummer "Aitch" Bembridge
(originally from The Selector), and Adam Birch on trombone and
trumpet, The Specials were keen, musically, demonstrating the
maturity of a cohesive, well-rehearsed unit. But both Staples and
Byers suffered a cold, and though they did a good job of hiding
their coughing on the side of the stage between sets, that had to
have affected them.

By the third song, Byers seemed to give up on motivating the
crowd and concentrated on overly calculated dance moves. But
Staples refused to surrender. With a brace on his injured knee and
a slight grimace on his sweaty face, his jumps only got higher and
his yells for the crowd to liven up only got louder. When "Rat
Race" didn’t get the crowd riled up enough, they moved on to the
popular "Do the Dog."

But it wasn’t until the obscure "Stupid Marriage" that Staple’s
hard work payed off. As he took on the stance of "Judge Ruffneck"
sentencing Byers as "Rudeboy," the crowd finally responded to The
Specials by dancing and cheering furiously. But even after the
explosive reception for "Too Much Too Young," it was clear that the
crowd’s awakening was much too late.

The last bursts of energy during "Ghost Town" were enough to
bring Lets Go Bowling back on stage for a jubilant "Simmer Down"
encore with The Specials. As the crowd screamed in unison for "Nite
Club," Staples finally got a smile on his face and took his band
back for a second encore to finish off the night.

The last songs demonstrated that if the Specials would have kept
playing, the performance would have only gotten better. But the
Palace already had KROQ dance night slated for 10:30, and no matter
how well the show was going, the management was unwilling to give
up the extra ticket sales from two events on one night for what
could have been a satisfying show.

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