Ska legends The Specials headlined Bedford Park on Friday night, playing a set packed with their biggest hits in front of thousands of fans.
The iconic 2 Tone band from Coventry opened this years’ Bedford Park Concert series, which continues today with a sold-out gig by Tom Grennan.
Led by singer Terry Hall, with original members Horace Panter on bass and Lynval Golding on rhythm guitar, The Specials are masters of their genre.
On stage at Bedford, they’re numbers are tripled with Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Craddock, keyboard player Nikolaj Torp Larsen and backing singer Hannah Hu are among the band’s touring contingent.
Joining The Specials were London’s Melt Yourself Down who kicked off proceedings with a sax heavy set which melded punk, jazz and funk.
They were followed by indie rock quartet Tribes, who after splitting in 2013 reformed in 2020.
Much of The Special’s set is taken from their classic 1979 self-titled debut and its successor, More Specials, alongside a series of well-known covers.
The Specials open with Freedom Highway and Rat Race and while Hall - hidden behind sunglasses and dressed head to toe in khaki green – saunters around stage, it’s bassist Panter who brings the early energy, bounding around the stage and posturing out towards the thousands in front of him.
While fans lap up track after track, it takes a while for the show to burst into life due to a set rear loaded with their best known and most upbeat material.
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around is among the first track to really whip the audience into life and its successor, A Message To You, signals the onset of hit after hit.
By the time Too Much Too Young and Monkey Man arrive, even those on seats further back at Bedford park are on their feet, skanking away.
After leaving the stage, The Specials return for a three-song encore which includes Talking Head cover Listening Wind – with Hu taking on lead vocals - ahead of their classic 1981 single Ghost Town, before they close the night with You’re Wondering Now.
It might have taken a while for The Specials to warm up the thousands inside Bedford Park, but when they did, it was a glorious reminder that six decades into their career, they’re still at the top of their game.
The Specials played:
Man at C&A
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
International Jet Set
Vote For Me
The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)
It Doesn’t Make It Alright.
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around
A Message To You
Do The Dog
Too Much Too Young