Neville Staple is a name that requires no introduction to disciples of both the ska and late 70’s English punk-reggae scenes. Revered as a key player in much loved, multi cultural British genre blenders The Specials, a respectably sized and highly enthusiastic crowd of old school rudies and skankers are on hand to embrace the man, the music and the message.
We missed Brisbane-based The Mouldy Lovers, which is a shame. But clearly the rest of the audience were on time and the large ska-punk-dub lunacy for which they are known, warmed the crowd ahead of our arrival.
First up for us, we’re treated to a bouncy set of authentic ska from legendary Sunshine Coast crew The Funaddicts. Having originally plied their trade way back in the 80s (they later told us the last time they played the Gold Coast was 1989), the band have still got that infectiously manic ska energy and style in spades. They delivered a classy and well received set that confirmed their reputation among aficionados of the Australian ska and two-tone scene.
Then it’s time for Neville Staple, the original English rude boy, to make his entrance.
Together with a seven piece support ensemble filling the stage, Staple is well equipped to bring the ska. And the man knows what his audience are here for, busting out a celebratory greatest hits set across his 90 minutes on the stage.
While Staple’s voice may lack the dynamic range of yore, his bandmates and the crowd more than compensate, exuberantly chanting the words to many a loved track with gusto. Case in point being the iconic A Message To You Rudy, which sets the bar high early up, the crowd swaying and singing along with joy and respect.
As well as a celebration of the legacy of The Specials, tonight’s set also features a bunch of classic ska-reggae belters. Pressure Drop, the Toots And The Maytals classic that The Clash later brought to the punk crowds, is a spine tingling moment of room unity. Staple and band also deliver spirited and reverential takes on Specials covers The Guns of Navarone, originally performed by ska godfathers The Skatallites, and Monkey Man, another original Toots And The Maytals track.
The hypnotic presence of Staple’s wife Christine Sugary Staple to his right, resplendent in ‘rude girl’ t shirt and radiant energy, is another thrill to go with a never ending stream of musical high points. She does an especially stellar job of re-creating the ghostly backing vocal refrain in the chorus to another Specials fan-fave, Ghost Town.
The greatest hits continue to fly thick and fast: The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum, Simmer Down, Johnny Too Bad and Gansters bringing forth manic bouts of singalong skanking. And as the night closes out and Staple busts out The Specials take on Prince Buster’s Enjoy Yourself, the enthusiastically loose and bouncing crowd continue to lap it all up like there’s no tomorrow. Living the songs catchy refrain “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.”