Live at The Academy, Bournemouth

A full house of nostalgic fans for The Specials with an interesting choice of warm up acts. An almost empty Opera House greeted Finnish band, The Scenes, on Tuesday as they opened for 2 Tone legends The Specials. The art-punk-rock outfit are little known outside their native land but their website claims their shows are “madly energetic, lights-out mayhem”. From the first chord it was clear they were an interesting choice to share the billing with The Specials. The band’s youth was obvious; pretentious, over-thought song titles combined with self-conscious stage craft.  Lead vocalist Konsta Koivisto’s agitated movements and accidentally-on-purpose destruction of the mic stand didn’t detract from his major failing as a lead singer. The boy could have been singing in Finnish for all I know. To give him his due, his vocal range was impressive, and the overall sound of the band was wonderfully reminiscent of early 00’s British guitar bands with added art school dropout attitude. Sadly, though, there’s such a thing as trying too hard. Following The Scenes were another youthful band, The Tones. They looked pretty sharp and sounded pretty sharp too. Hailing from Surrey, the clean-shaven, suited foursome brought the energy the previous band’s hype had promised but failed to deliver. In all seriousness they weren’t dressed appropriately for that amount of physical exercise. They played confidently through a set of self-penned rock tunes, despite of some minor feedback issues, like a foetal version of The Hives with the distortion turned way up. I suspect The Tones may be ones to watch in the next year. For the main event the house was full, and I mean rammed. As the lights went down a chant of “Rude boy, rude boy” went up from the audience. The Specials opened with arguably their most recognisable song, “Ghost Town”. The crowd was mostly made up of fifty year olds reliving their youth by singing every word in unison and wearing their uniform of Fred Perry shirts buttoned to the top.  It was impossible not to bounce along with them, shoulder to shoulder, getting damp with beer in the process. The band were the pro’s you would expect after playing together for over 30 years; not a note was missed. Effortlessly, they romped through their back catalogue with little need for between track banter, though there were some droll comments attempted by Terry Hall. “Rat Race” was followed by “It doesn’t make it alright”, which inspired a mass clap-along led by Lynval Golding. It was him who kept the crowd going, persuading everyone to get dancing. Yes, we were ready to start skanking, right through “Hey little rich girl”, “Pearl’s Café”, “A message to you Rudy”, right to the end of the set.   An encore was expected and demanded. An additional trio of songs appropriately included “Enjoy yourself”. The gig was a faultless run of their greatest hits, all written in an era when music paid more than passing lip service to politics, and they still stand up as great, danceable tunes. Contrary to the lyrics it was not “a load of bollocks”, it was a lot of fun.