The Neville Staple Band- live review

The Neville Staple Band @ Cockpit, Leeds 9/11/2013

What do you do when the dance partner of your dreams has had two knee replacements?

Because that's what has happened to Neville Staple, toaster and skanking extraordinare from the Specials, whose music once embodied the angst and economic desperation of a generation and who now, at just 58, can't bust out the moves like he used to.

Instead he relies on a setlist of pure crowdpleasers, a night of ska and reggae nostalgia for the crowd of original skinheads and young indie kids at the Cockpit in Leeds.

Kicking off with Simmer Down, the band follow with Toots's ska classic Pressure Drop, Specials' hit A Message To You, Rudy and Fun Boy Three's The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum). As a seasoned ska fan, I've seen Neville live enough times to know something is wrong and sure enough his surgery means he can no longer dance like he used to. It hasn't changed his chirpy nature but there's definitely something missing. As someone whose New Year's Resolution has been for years to have a skank-off with the man, I've got to say my heart broke a little.

The band continue the set with reggae feelgood Johnny Too Bad and a trail of Specials classics: Monkey Man, Do the Dog and Gangsters, a rousing singalong of Guns of Navarone and finishing with the eerie Ghost Town.

After just one hour on stage, Neville hobbles off. But he knows better than to leave a crowd of skinheads baying for more and returns for You're Wondering Now and then it's over.

Ska gigs can never leave you feeling less than ecstatic and as we leave the Cockpit drenched in beer and other people's sweat (nice), I remember why I love them so much. 

Words by Rebecca Jackson

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