THE SPECIALS + THE TUTS + DJ SAFFIYAH KHAN – BRIGHTON DOME CONCERT HALL 17.04.19
The legendary 2 Tone band, The Specials, are back on the case and they thankfully included Brighton Dome in amongst their 31-date 40th anniversary tour and even Exeter is included on the tour as according to IDLES “Nothing ever happens” there!
I have to admit that if my memory serves me right, then I have only once previously seen them before, but oh my what a gig that was. Those old enough to recall the excellent Top Rank Suite in Brighton, which has now been incorporated into the PRYZM nightclub in the Kingswest at the bottom of West Street, will have many fond memories of the top bands of the day performing at the venue. The famous 2 Tone tours appeared there, with the opening date of the first tour in 1979 which not only featured The Specials, but also Madness and The Selecter.
My previous Specials encounter was at one of those 2 Tone Tours and it was very memorable for various reasons for me, as not only was there a huge crowd invasion on the stage during The Specials set, and that The Selecter were also on the bill, but I met a nice young lady called Anne-Marie at this concert and we started dating for several months. So all in all a fab night!
Back then, it was virtually the original Specials lineup which featured the principal songwriter and keyboardist Jerry Dammers (who was in the band from 1977 up until 1984), along with the toasting vocalist Neville Staple and lead guitarist and vocalist Roddy Radiation (who both came along in 1978 until 1981 and have been in and out the lineup a further three times).
Other full time members during my early 1980’s Top Rank gig were singer Rhoda Dakar, who went on to form The Bodysnatchers, guitarist John Shipley, flugelhorn player Dick Cuthell and their sadly departed drummer John Bradbury who passed away in 2015 aged just 62 and the elder statesman, the Cuban-born Jamaican ska and reggae trombonist Rico Rodriguez, who also passed away in 2015, aged 80.
Thus this leaves just three remaining members from their heady chart-topping days, who are still in the band this evening, namely the ever-smiling (sic) songwriter and vocalist Terry Hall, rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding and superb bass player Horace Panter.
This famous trio are now more than ably assisted by a handful of accomplished musicians who make The Specials into an octet. They are Tim Smart – trombone (2008–present), Nikolaj Torp Larsen – keyboards (2008–present), Steve Cradock – lead guitar (2014–present), Pablo Mendelssohn – trumpet (2014–present) and Kenrick Rowe – drums (2019–present).
Considering how influential The Specials are, I would have thought that the band would have booked to appear at the larger Brighton Centre venue, especially with the amount of clout and influencing the band have had over the decades, but this wasn’t the case and so I knew it was going to be packed full of mainly middle-aged ska fans and indeed I wasn’t wrong.
Regarding not performing at the Brighton Centre, I can add weight to my argument by throwing out there that The Specials new current album titled ‘Encore’ (which came out on 1st February) actually hit the No.1 slot in the official album charts and can you believe that it was their first ever No.1 album! I know bonkers isn’t it! It secured top slot by outselling Busted by a mere 1060 sales. The omens were good as it was in the exact same week 39 years previously that their terrific ‘Too Much Too Young’ 5-track EP single topped the UK singles chart. I’ve still got my copy.
My previous reference for the venue being packed was accurate, however this evenings wonderful support act The Tuts, might not have believed that, as many punters were consuming liquid refreshment elsewhere during their enjoyable set.
I have been a fan of Nadia Javed, Beverley Ishmael and Harriet Doveton aka The Tuts for around six years now and it was so nice to see the ladies performing on a large stage, as I have seen them several times in much smaller venues.
You certainly know when they are around as Nadia has a big personality that can fill a room. Tonight also being the case as during their set, she was plugging their merch on stage, using her abilities from a previous pharmaceutical sales job that she informed us that she had previously held down. She said that she went for an interview last week which was a tad scary.
You see this band are a DIY band and need to support themselves. They do everything themselves, they have no manager, no label and no press. Although I did do my bit for them a few years back when they appeared at The Vinyl Frontier record shop in Eastbourne on Record Store Day and I organised a full page photo of them in the local Eastbourne Herald newspaper. I presented them with copies of the papers and they were truly thrilled and informed me that it was their first ever full page – happy days!
You can’t judge a book by their cover with The Tuts, as they refer themselves as a 3 Tone band, as vocalist and guitarist Nadia is British with an Indian/Pakistani heritage, drummer Bev is of Caribbean descent and vocalist and bassist Harriet is white British. If you saw them just standing on the stage alone, one might wrongly assume that the ladies are some form of Three Degrees or something….wrong! These girls rock! Although going by tonight’s costume, it did look Three Degrees.
The Tuts hail from Hayes in West London, or for us oldies, that’s formally Middlesex. Their sound is pop-punk with a political statement who pack a punch and they released their debut album ‘Update Your Brain’ in September 2016. This came out through a Pledge campaign. It got to its total in a week! I bought mine! Clearly there’s a buzz around these girls.
Tonight they were supporting The Specials and have previously supported The Selecter as well as performing with the likes of The Undertones and Feeder. They have collaborated with GIRLI on her track ‘Mr 10pm Bedtime’, which I saw GIRLI perform live four days ago at The Haunt in Brighton – read the review HERE.
Harriet is also a member of the band Colour Me Wednesday with her sister Jen and they with Laura and Jaca, released their debut album last May titled ‘Counting Pennies In The Afterlife’ – details HERE.
Tonight, The Tuts entertained the crowd with a foot-tapping set mainly culled from the aforementioned ‘Update Your Brain’ album. They came on to the sound of their trademark backing tape about The Tuts and launched straight into ‘Let Go Of The Past’ and then thankfully into two of my fave Tuts tracks, ‘Tut Tut Tut’ and ‘Worry Warrior’ (which is about mental health).
The following track was dedicated to Ranking Roger from The Beat, who the girls had met and they performed a medley of ‘Stand Down Margaret’/’Give Us Something Worth Voting For’ which went down rather well with the crowd. The following track ‘Dump Your Boyfriend’ was dedicated to anyone who has been in a toxic relationship. ‘Take On The World’ was up next and is about them not having a label or manager and their ‘1982’ tune was about a previous manager that the girls had had, who’s contacts were only from 1982. They finished with a crescendo of ‘Back Up’ which Nadia told us is used on a female wrestling programme. It went reasonably well, other than Nadia having a few technical problems, but this luckily allowed Harriet to inform the crowd as to how they got the support slot for the tour as Terry Hall kept messaging them, but they thought it was a prankster until tonight’s DJ Saffiyah Khan informed them otherwise.
The Tuts setlist was:
‘Let Go Of The Past’, ‘Tut Tut Tut’, ‘Worry Warrior’, ‘Stand Down Margaret’/’Give Us Something Worth Voting For’, ‘Dump Your Boyfriend’, ‘Take On The World’, ‘Con Man’, ‘1982’, ‘You’re So Boring’/’Back Up’.
Tonight the Dome audience were witness to a couple of half hour DJ sets from Saffiyah Khan in between the acts. Saffiyah first came to the attention of the general public when she was photographed a few years ago in Birmingham city centre smiling in the face of a hostile member of the far right group EDL (English Defence League) at one of their demonstrations. The picture has been shared many times as it’s one of those ‘a photo speaks a thousand words’ moments. (see below)
Not surprisingly Saffiyah’s phone was a tad hot after that and she appeared on stage at Labour party events and was offered free tickets to a Specials gig as she had been seen sporting an official t-shirt at that demonstration. Hence the connection to DJing tonight. Not content with just that, she actually turned up on stage again during The Specials set, to offer up her in your face vocals for ‘10 Commandments’. She wandered off of stage into the photographers pit in order to inject more life into the performance. Worked well I thought.
So it was now 9:10pm and The Specials came on stage, ten minutes later than planned. Something had to give at the end and indeed I believe it might have cost us the second encore.
Hold on to your pork pie hats, they’re off! The sound of the air raid sirens signalled their entry, which is likely to be a connection to their home city of Coventry being bombed in WW2. They kicked off with a few oldies to get the now rammed crowd moonstomping. We were served ‘Man At C&A’, ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Do Nothing’, which set the tone nicely. The music did sound very much like their vinyl releases and so everyone was in the mood. The eight piece were a tight unit and I particularly enjoyed Horace Panter’s bass playing. It reminded me of Sly & Robbie, when I have seen them with Black Uhuru.
Now I have to confess that I was really trying to keep my notes up to date regarding The Specials setlist tonight, as I believe fans are inquisitive as to which tracks artists perform, but there were a couple of vital footie games on at the same time and I was getting updates. In fact so was Terry Hall as he informed the crowd a matter of seconds after I was notified that Spurs had qualified for the semi final of the European Cup for the very first time at the expense of Man City and will go onto face Ajax. Liverpool also got through at the expense of FC Porto and will face Barcelona. Just think, it could be an all English European Cup final – how awesome!
Back to the music and one of my highlights of the night was singing out really loud (apologies to those around me) to ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’, which I had honestly forgotten was originally a Specials composition, as I know it well from the blistering cover found on Stiff Little Fingers second album ‘Nobody’s Heroes’, which came out in 1980 a year after The Specials classic 1979 debut self-titled album.
Thankfully, this evening, The Specials plundered this album and we were given ‘A Message To You, Rudy’, ‘Do The Dog’, ‘Nite Klub’, Concrete Jungle’, ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Blank Expression’, ‘Too Much Too Young’, and ‘Little Bitch’. So that was no less than nine of the fourteen tracks played from that album – nice one guys!
Mind you the 1980 follow up album ‘More Specials’ got a good airing track-wise tonight with the aforementioned trilogy ‘Man At C&A’, ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Do Nothing’. Of the ten tunes found on their latest ‘Encore’ album, they performed six of them – ‘Vote For Me’, ‘Embarrassed By You’, ‘Breaking Point’, ‘Blam Blam Fever’, ‘10 Commandments’ (with Saffiyah Khan) and ‘The Lunatics’ (which is interestingly their cover of The Fun Boy Three’s ‘The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum’ track that they had written).
They ended on a three track encore that finished with ‘Ghost Town’. For me personally, I might have swapped around the running order, so that fans were left with the uplifting tracks at the end as opposed the more down-tempo tracks of ‘Breaking Point’ and ‘Ghost Town’. So my perfect ending would have been ‘Do The Dog’, ‘Rat Race’, ‘Little Bitch’ and ‘Nite Klub’. I’m certain I’m not alone in thinking this. Great gig otherwise and YES we did get ‘Gangsters’.
The Specials setlist was:
‘Man At C&A’, ‘Rat Race’, ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Vote For Me’, ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’, ‘Embarrassed By You’, ‘Blank Expression’, ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’, ‘The Lunatics’ (The Fun Boy Three cover), ‘Blam Blam Fever’ (The Valentines cover), ‘A Message To You, Rudy’ (Dandy Livingstone cover), ‘Stereotypes’, ‘10 Commandments’ (with Saffiyah Khan), ‘Nite Klub’, ‘Do The Dog’ (Rufus Thomas cover), ‘Concrete Jungle’, ‘Monkey Man’ (Toots & The Maytals cover), ‘Gangsters’, ‘Little Bitch’, ‘Too Much Too Young’, (encore), ‘Guns Of Navarone’ (The Skatalites cover), ‘Breaking Point’, ‘Ghost Town’.
More about The Specials HERE.
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