The fact that this gig sold out extremely quickly is testament to the enduring popularity of one of the greatest bands to emerge from the high unemployment and racial tension of the post-punk late 70s. With Jerry Dammers still uninterested in rejoining the band he created and Neville Staple quitting in 2012 due to health issues and and Roddy Radiation this year deciding to pursue personal projects, only four original members remain.
Terry Hall sloped on, head bowed, as the haunting opening refrain of Ghost Town began but by the end of Friday Night Saturday Morning a few moments later he was positively chipper and at his sarcastic best, admiring the crowd’s clothing choices “we passed TK Maxx on the way here” and asking burly skinheads if they’d lost weight. With Neville gone the Fun Boy Two duetted on Lynval Golding’s sweet ‘Do Nothing’ then continued through the second album where Stereotype was given a full Mariachi flavour enhanced by the brass and strings section.
There was something really satisfying in hearing a crowd of 2000 people that should know better shouting “It’s all a load of bollocks” during a bouncy knees up version of Pearl’s Cafe but with the anti-fascism lyrics of Why updated to include the EDL it shows how little Britain has progressed in 35 years.
Nite Klub caused an eruption which was maintained for the rest of the night, the quality and catchiness of the songs lifting an already sweaty standing area; Horace Panter’s bouncy bassline backed the attacking brass and there was even a snippet of We Are Family squeezed in. Lynval took Neville’s parts throughout and dig a great job on Monkey Man with some great organ work from Nik Torp creating a sea of bobbing bald heads.
A Message To You Rudy remains one of the great cover versions and was an absolute joy to hear live. The resting string section could be seen skanking offstage to Little Bitch; a perfect blend of Coventry punk and Kingston ska and the set concluded with an epic Too Much Too Young.
Given their depleted numbers it begs the question ‘how long can they continue?’ and based on tonight’s performance the answer must be for as long as they want because they will always have an audience of first, second and now third generation fans and song lyrics that are sadly as relevant now as when they were written.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Monday 17th November 2014
Words and pictures by Steve Clements