VENTURA THEATER, VENTURA, CA
22 MARCH, 2013The Specials preached a gospel of unity, a devotion to old ska and reggae, and cast a jaundiced eye at the Thatcher-bedeviled state of the nation. While shorn of founding member Jerry Dammers, and with Neville Staple stepping back for health reasons, it was not untoward to expect the group to be a shadow of itself. But, this is the Specials, and the flame still burns. Powering through a lengthy set resting heavily on their two albums and fistful of singles, the men showed all the energy of yore, and kept a frightening pace, turning the floor of the Ventura Theater into a seething dance party.
Stateside appearances by the band have been all too infrequent...most recently in 2010 they did a short tour around an appearance at Coachella. This year it was popping up at SXSW in Austin that found them tacking on some west coast gigs, including this one.
The faded glory of the Ventura Theater, in a city that's seen it's fair share of gang-related issues, turned out to be the perfect place to see them. All their touchstones were present and accounted for, from "Do The Dog" to "Too Much Too Young" to "Rat Race" to "Gangsters" to "Monkey Man", song after song in an unending rush. For the most part, they let the music manifest the message, but made a point to have the youngsters in the frenzied front lifted into the photo pit, then, in a touching moment, brought up onstage, and blessed with a dedication to them of: "A Message To You, Rudy".
Their epic English #1, "Ghost Town", was a fitting encore, and they polished off the night with their untouchable cover of "The Guns Of Navarone", causing one last wave of dance commotion on the floor.
Little Hurricane, a guitar(s) and drums duo that made a hellacious racket in service of debut LP, Homewreckers. Most people would plump for the obvious White Stripes comparison, but for me it was more like Two Gallants crossed with a dose of Sabbath sludge for good measure. Very much look forward to seeing them again.