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Preceding the release of their newest album Protest Songs 1924 — 2012, The Specials appropriately proved at the Roundhouse in Camden that their protest music is just as important and relevant today as it was 44 years ago when they first formed. Important figures in the English 2 Tone and Ska revival movement, The Specials have gone through many line-up changes and evolutions over time. However, the band’s roots as a politically progressive and outspoken group has not faltered. Perhaps these upheld views and their long-lived dedication to delivering a message are the reason why so many fans have stuck with the band over the years, despite all the changes.
The Specials’ fanbase stood out to me throughout their concert. One husband and wife I met during the show, told me about how they used to go to see the band play small gigs in Coventry before they made it big (the husband actually told me that his first girlfriend was the current Bass player’s wife). After a moving rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up,’ the couple aptly pointed out to me that what The Specials symbolise is just as relevant today, if not more, as it was when the band first began. The wife said to me, ‘This is what you should write your article about, the fact that nothing’s changed. What we were fighting for forty years ago is still going on today.’ That statement really stood out to me, as it helped to recontextualise protest music’s lasting power. I think that so often we—or at least I—can have a tendency to think of protest music as stuck in a specific time period. The Specials’ music will have a lasting legacy because it is filled with a passion for causes which the band personally believes in.
On my tube ride back home, I met a father who had made sure to see The Specials at least once each decade since their formation. Now, he was excited to be bringing his son into this tradition of his, who was attending his first Specials show that night. While this is a touching story, it also proves the multigenerational appeal of The Specials and their music. At the Roundhouse, the band gave an exceptional show which anyone could enjoy, with some specific highlights of the performance including: ‘Get Up, Stand Up,’ ‘A Message to You Rudy,’ and ‘Ghost Town.’ But the true standout of the concert was the huge, lively audience. Many of these fans were there 44 years ago, and yet still moshing like 1970 punks.