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THE SPECIALS / STONE FOUNDATION/ BY THE RIVERS @ MANCHESTER APOLLO 15/10/11 – REVIEW BY PHIL KING

There must have been literally thousands of artists and groups who’ve performed on the stage of the Manchester Apollo, but few have created such a party atmosphere as the Specials did this Saturday night. Now into their second year of touring since reforming for the bands 30th anniversary back in 2009, the band boasts almost all the original members, save for Jerry Dammers, though with these rude boys being on such scintillating form tonight that doesn’t prove to be too much of a handicap.  

To open proceedings Leicester six-piece ‘By The Rivers’ treat the crowd to a selection of sweet and sour reggae dishes which the crowd eat up with relish. They sound, to these ears like a UB40 by with rawer organic edge, and is the perfect grove to get the evening started. http://bytherivers.bandcamp.com

Midlands based seven-piece band 'Stone Foundation' swing by next. The band, who started their music life playing in cellars in Sutton Coldfield, bill themselves as possessing the sound of small town northern soul, but tonight they conjure up a sweat soaked performance that’s big on both passion and commitment. Singer and guitarist Neil Jones in particular throws himself into the performance though I’m not sure if getting down to do a few push-ups, as Jones does during one soul stomper, will ever catch on any time soon.

However apart from that Stone Foundation turn in a hugely entertaining set of cool vibes that are truly deserving of the cheers from a now packed Apollo theatre.  

The demand for tickets for this tour underlines 'The Specials' enduring appeal, with Manchester being graced with two nights to satisfy demand. So, when the lights finally dim there’s a deafening roar to great the band. But, instead of the Specials breezing onto the stage, there is a series of film clips to watch that show the important moments that were the backdrop to the bands heyday. But when the band finally emerge and crack open a lively version of ‘Gangsters’ the Apollo bounces into life with unbridled joy. As the evening unfolds it’s clear that this song has set the energy level that the band works hard to maintain. The Specials set tonight contains more of less everything the band has recorded. What is noticeable is that there’s not one new song on display tonight, though that doesn’t much bother the throng who welcome each song like an old friend. Often the band looks out onto a sea of bobbing heads, each seduced into shaking a leg by the these two-tone classics.

The dour Terry Hall sings the majority of the songs except when Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers steps into the limelight for a blistering rendition of ‘Concrete Jungle’ which with the plaintive ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ and the reflective and zestful set closer ‘Enjoy Yourself’ are the high-points in a collection of high quality tunes. The band returns with everybody’s favourite, ‘Ghost Train’, which is extended to include a dub section with a spinal column shaking bass sound that eats into the floorboards. A brief pause and the boys are back again with another two, finally finishing with ‘You’re Wondering Now’ which sends everyone home with a smile stretched across their face. 

Setlist:

Gangsters
Do the Dog
(Dawning Of A) New Era
It's Up to You
Monkey Man
Blank Expression
Too Hot
Doesn't Make It Alright
Rat Race
Hey Little Rich Girl
Stupid Marriage
Concrete Jungle
International Jet Set
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
Do Nothing
Stereotype
Man At C&A
Pearl's Cafe
A Message to You Rudy
Nite Klub
Too Much Too Young
Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)

Encore:

Ghost Town

Encore 2:

Little Bitch
You're Wondering Now

ww.stonefoundation.co.uk
www.thespecials.com

Review by Phil King
Photos by Mel