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- The Specials @ The Ogden Theatre, with L.A. Salami, Wednesday, June 5, 8 p.m., 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, $42/adv, $45/door, ages 16+, 303/832-1874, ogdentheatre.com
The 2019 version of The Specials is more than capable when it comes to representing the U.K. ska revivalists’ early repertoire on tour. Terry Hall, the lead vocalist on the majority of the band’s hits, is back at center stage, his deadpan delivery and Midlands accent as distinctive as ever. Bassist Horace Panter and guitarist Lynval Golding are also on board. But two of The Specials’ key members are missing in action: Singer Neville Staple’s deeply resonant West Indian patois was a key component of haunting, dub-influenced songs like “Ghost Town.”
The same can be said for primary songwriter, keyboardist and 2 Tone Records founder Jerry Dammers, whose lyrics thankfully matured from the tirade against welfare mothers, “Too Much Too Young,” to post-Hall tracks like “Free Nelson Mandela.” Earlier this year, The Specials’ latter-day lineup released Encore, their first album of original material in two decades, a solid effort that nonetheless suffered from the two musicians’ absence.
As unlikely as a full-scale reunion may be, it’s arguably what would be needed to move the band forward with renewed energy and creativity. In the meantime, 2 Tone label-mates The Selecter, fronted by Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps”Hendrickson, are still as vital as ever, and will be returning to Denver for a Sept. 15 appearance at the Marquis Theater. If you can catch both bands, do it. If not, choose wisely.