Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There is so much to say about last night I am finding it hard to know where to start. I went in with a few expectations, mainly to do with the possibility of bumping into some of my old crowd. I had little expectations for the performance.

Going alone meant I could sit in the icy confines of the upstairs stalls at the Enmore Theatre and people watch in peace. The crowd was pretty much how I imagined it, 40-50 year olds, some with their teenage kids. All of us reliving our past. I was surprised (or maybe not) by the number of adult men revisiting their flattops and their Rude Boy jackets with the red tartan lining. Yes, we all had our Doctor Martens on. One gent even turned up in full uniform: the turned up jeans, Docs, white t-shirt and black braces hanging from his waist down round his knees. Have some dignity, man!

I was looking for familiar faces but quickly realised those faces would now be 25 years older and just a tad wider and wrinklier, just like my own. Surely my chances of recognising anyone were slim. I did see one Sam Lightfoot, a singer in a band I saw once or twice in the day. My brain still won't produce the name of the band but I'm hoping it will come to me eventually.

Sitting there, waiting, thinking, threw me down a deep, dark well of nostalgia. My god, the people who were so important to me in the day. Melissa and Kelly, Katrina, little Billie who you could pop in your pocket, she was so small and elf-like, Cathy George who started as an enemy and turned into the best of friends. The boys, oh the boys! Big Brett and Little Brett, Little Michael, Big Brian and Little Brian (the cold night we shared a pash in the dirt behind the Royal George Hotel), John Duffy (the king of the skinheads), my own sweet, lost Neil (what could have been...), so many others. Fuck the memories are bittersweet, aren't they. What a perfect word bittersweet is. So apt and right for just this sort of traipse down memory lane. Whatever happened to these people who meant so much to me a million years ago?

The concert itself was awesome, beyond awesome. There are no words to describe its total awesome-ness. The boys still have it. I assume they had it in the day but they never toured here so this was my very first (and I am guessing very last) taste of The Specials live. Terry, gruesome as ever, playing the straight man, shuffling around at the front, mumbling his lyrics, just as he should be. Neville and Lynval, the clowns, dancing, jumping, getting the crowd going. All of us young again and having the time of our lives.

It was such a wonderful surprise that the whole audience, all of us old, creaking fogies, were fucking into it. The ska beat is hard to resist and we were all up on our feet from the first note, dancing, singing along. I used to be scared of going to concerts alone, until I went to Robbie Williams and had the best time. When I'm alone I can go crazy and not care. There's no-one around who knows me to judge me. What do I care what the goons next to me think? Is there any greater pleasure in life than yelling out the words to Little Bitch at the top of your lungs along with 5,000 like-minded Rude Boys and Girls?

There was a weird moment for me towards the end. During the encore they launched into Longshot Kick the Bucket, a ska favourite. The crowd went wild and suddenly I wanted to cry, I almost cried. The emotion hit me so hard, it was like a fist in the gut. The day is gone, it won't return, I can't recapture it. Today is another day, a different day, but a little part of me wants to re-live that day. The day when I was so alive, so free, so passionate and spiky, when everything was possible.

My only tiny disappointment about last night was the lack of Stupid Marriage in the set. Yes, they did Too Much, Too Young (would have been lynched otherwise) but for me those two songs go together: a couplet.

But the end was true and real and perfect. Enjoy Yourself, how could they have written that almost 30 years ago?

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as you wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,
It's later than you think

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