Hard to believe it’s now thirty-five years since the beginnings of Two Tone, a melding of Punk D.I.Y. playing and attitude coupled with Ska and Rocksteady rhythms and songs that made for one of the most influential mash ups that still resonates today. With The Specials due to tour again this year, it’s fitting that The Selecter, the co-directors of the Two Tone label are also on the road to celebrate their respective anniversaries.
The Selecter are an eight piece consisting of drums, bass, keyboards, lead guitar, sax and trumpet, fronted by original members Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson. They’re a dapper looking pair and are warmly greeted by the crowd, made up of old skinheads who have obviously grown up with the band and younger faces who must just like Ska. They launch into their very first single “The Selecter”, which was a double ‘A’ side with The Specials’ “Gangsters” then the gig kicks off in fine uptempo style with “Three Minute Hero”, everyone bouncing along with the exuberant band performance. Like The Specials, their songs stand the test of time. Classic tunes from the first album like “Missing Words”, “Murder” and their Pioneers’ cover version “Everyday (Time Hard)” are still dance floor gems that keep the crowd moving.
Pauline Black stresses that they still record new material (something Jerry Dammers wanted The Specials to do) and the band launch into a couple of songs from their 2013 album “String Theory”. Their Ska version of “The Avengers’ Theme Tune” continues the fine tradition of taking popular songs or theme tunes and giving them an uptempo Ska re-working. Good to see they want to perform new songs as well as celebrate their longevity and the nostalgia of their early releases, exactly what Public Enemy do whenever they play.
When they switch back to older material, “On My Radio” still sounds as relevant as when it was first released and is met with a rowdy enthusiasm worthy of it’s classic status. At this point in the set, Pauline Black still looks dapper while Gaps is drenched in his own sweat even while he still bounces effortlessly around the stage. Finally, they encore with the classic “Too Much Pressure”, complete with raucous hand claps from both band and audience and a Ska/Soca track from “String Theory” called “667 (Neighbour Of The Beast)”, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place at the Notting Hill Carnival.
Along with The Specials, The Beat and Madness, The Selecter show they can still put on a great live show and prove that Ska and Rocksteady can still attract large, enthusiastic audiences.