I’m a kinder, wiser, gentler man than the guy I used to be, the guy who used to say “I missed the original Specials when I had the chance to see them; it’s too late to turn back now.” I was an asshole for missing out on seeing them a mile away from my house as a teenager because I thought I was too cool to see some other crappy New Wave bands on the concert bill. I was an asshole for not seeing them a few years later, when the original lineup might have started splintering, but again, I thought I was too cool to see them in a mixed crowd of newcomers to New Wave. I was an asshole as recently as 2013, when the came through Philly and I said, “No Dammers, no Mr Mod in attendance!”
I was NOT an asshole that night in June 2019, when my son and I bopped along to the packed, little crowd; when Hall, two other original members, and a capable group of young guns, who played appropriate instruments (not pointy things with bad effects) pumped out the hits and some strong songs from a then-new album; and when I looked all around and saw hardly a face from my old Philly punk scene, save a guy I used to see with a guy Townsman chickenfrank and I used to refer to as Snuffleupagus, AND YET I didn’t get put off by the fact that anyone there might have been a latecomer to the Specials. In the accompanying video someone shot that night, you can hear the crowd singing along. That kind of stuff usually puts me off, but it was unavoidable. My son, who’s inherited many of the holier-than-thou tendencies of his father, was having too much fun for me to turn my nose up. So was I!
Terry Hall was a weird presence that night, singing from the side of the stage, disconnected and wearing what looked like an asylum health worker’s outfit. I had never considered the sadness that he brought to the band, then I remembered that he had struggled with mental and emotional health issues. When they played “Ghost Town” and got to the break, I teared up at the beauty of that entire night. I still feel that just thinking about the night.
So there, there’s a story of me having a special moment with one of my sons at a concert. The two of us saw Elvis Costello & The Imposters playing Imperial Bedroom in its entirety in NYC the night before the 2016 election. Man, there was so much hope in the air that night. He and the crowd was ecstatic over the thought of us electing our first woman president. He told excellent stories about the making of the songs on that album. Again, my son was entranced, as he was about to start a new journey on his life. Wild times.