Live at Millennium Square on Sunday, 24th May 2009
"Forget Swine Flu, CNN should report about the Reggae Flu!" The Slackers are the perfect band to ease us into a sunny Sunday of easy beats. Merging rocksteady, dub, soul and jazz with ska and reggae to create a wonderfully smooth combination of beats these Brooklyn rude boys can skank with the best of them. And the best today is The Specials.
Having sold out their tour in minutes, the Coventry band have put on this outdoor event in the North for 7,000 fans. I think they need somewhere bigger, as this has sold out too! You can't beat sunshine ska though...
The place fills up rather quickly. There must be a third of the crowd wearing trilbys, another third wearing braces; dreadlocks and mohicans dotted about and more two tone black and white checks than a Chess Olympiad. Across from the stage the lucky buggers who own the flats overlooking the square are out on their balconies, dressed in ska clothes with some of the best (free) seats in the house. I bet they wish there were more concerts in this great part of Leeds; you could pay for your mortgage by charging people into your abode to watch the shows!
Pama International are up next, and describe themselves as dub-fuelled ska rocksteady and reggae, which they are. Some of the beats are a little slower than those of the Slackers, with more lovelorn lyrics, but the eight piece features a high calibre line up; Finny & Sean Flowerdew from The Loafers, Special Beat, Skooby & Skanga, and have had members from Madness and Pop will Eat Itself. There's also Lynval Golding of a little band known as The Specials. Busy chappy he is today then!
'Lovely Wife' is a slow beat swayer, and 'Earthquake' with its rattling beat halfway through is a great track. 'Love Filled Dub Band', the name of their last album, sums the band up to a tee.
Now the next band, for me, should have played first. The more established The Slackers and Pama International should have played nearer to the headliners, but (more than likely) some record company has pushed this young band to the front for big bucks and recognition. Shame then, that Kid British are playing for a load of adult British who are pretty tipsy now, after spending a hot afternoon condensed on warm concrete slabs drinking practically non stop. We have all stood up now, as the last few ticket holders arrive to take up whatever space is left.
Now Golding himself added these guys to the bill after seeing them in London. Maybe he did it for a break between sets? All I know is that they are more modern with the ska (they take Madness' 'Our House' and pimp it up).
For myself I just don't like them, it's a bit like The Streets trying to do The Specials, and for me it doesn't work. The strips of indie in there too do not sound right; full marks for trying but I don't dig it. 'Elizabeth' has such a beginning, with "duh duh" indie guitars. If this introduces kids to ska then that is good, but I'm not sure about this band lasting that long. Let's hope they prove me wrong...
Now for the highlight, a certain band called The Specials. The rumours are right, there is no Jerry Dammers here, whether it's because of him of the band, but at six out of seven it ain't bad.
What a treat we have as well. 'Do The Dog ', '(Dawning of a) New Era', 'Gangsters' and 'Rat Race / Rude boy Outta Jail' all set the mood for a good gig. The cover of Toots and Maytals' 'Monkey Man' is dedicated "to all bouncers"! 'Too Hot', 'Doesn't Make It All Right', 'Concrete Jungle', the excellent 'Friday Night / Saturday Morning', 'Stereotypes (Part2)' and 'Man At C&A' are all thrown at us straight away like a heavy boot in the face.
The place is rammed now, but it's weird that when everyone starts skanking to the early airing of 'A Message To You Rudy' there seems to be enough room. Strange... 'Nite Klub' and the everlasting words and melody of 'Ghost Town' take us to the encore, and many happy two tone faces stand in awe of the mighty skank masters.
The place gets its head down again for 'Too Much Too Young', then it's onto 'Long Shot Kick De Bucket' and 'Skinhead Moonstomp', ending on the song that every night should end on, 'Enjoy Yourself'. Hall emotionally tells us that it's been a privilege, but I can assure you, the privilege is all ours. The energy levels from Neville Staples, Lynval Golding, Terry Hall, Roddy Byers, and John Bradbury and Horace Panter would not make you assume that their debut album came out 30 years ago!