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Pop Music Review : Party Atmosphere Comes With the Specials' Delivery

October 22, 1994|LORRAINE ALI

England's Specials headed the ska revival of the late '70s and early '80s, playing the pulsing Jamaican style with a harder edge that reflected the U.K.'s simultaneous punk rock movement. The fresh take on this pre-reggae genre spurred a whole slew of new like-minded bands such as the Selecter and Madness, and also begat a new generation of Mods, with their natty suits, ties and motor scooters.

But it's been a good 10 years since the Specials went the way of skinny ties and pointy shoes, so the band's show Thursday at the Palace seemed somewhat of a gamble. It took half a set for the band to get the audience truly skanking (the angular dance that looks sort of like mechanized skipping) but, ultimately, the Specials delivered just what old-time fans wanted: a familiar party atmosphere.

The band, which boasts of four of its original seven members, first boomed dubby ballads and then pumped out more upbeat dance numbers. Neville Staples and Roddy Byers sang with sleepy, reggae-ish cadences and in tough, rude boy monotones. The songs--including the classics "A Message to You Rudy"--came through clean and tight, with the audience singing along en masse.

Though they seem somewhat irrelevant now, the Specials were still able to deliver high-energy and hard-hitting ska, no apologies required.

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