Terry Hall The Hanover Grand, London

Click to follow
The Independent Online
In the early Eighties, as Thatcherite Britain began taking shape, the inner cities erupted into rioting and every TV programme seemed to be Boys from the Blackstuff, it was up to Terry Hall's first band The Specials to provide the soundtrack to the collapse of the inner city sprawl. "Ghost Town" was one of the finest yet most unlikely number one records ever. Each of his subsequent bands was gradually worse; the Fun Boy Three were occasionally wonderful, with each song a kitchen sink drama you could dance to and Colourfield had occasional glimpses of genius but the quality curve was heading unerringly earthwards.

The career bottomed out earlier this decade with the risible Vegas project with the famous bearded man Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, a man as convinced of his own talent as he is incapable of writing a memorable tune. Hall's new album, Laugh, finds him working with several collaborators, and finally heading in his own direction.

The man with the longest face in rock takes to the stage an hour late wearing a shroud of perpetual cigarette smoke. Fragile hands grip the neck of the mike-stand loosely as a Tricky-esque swampy rumble meanders through the hall. People shuffle uncertainly.

Two songs later, the concert takes off with the classic "Our Lips Are Sealed". Terry Hall grips the mic stand at waist height as the verse, powered by Velvet Underground-style drumming, drives the song crashing headlong into a chorus that single-handedly underlines why Terry Hall deserves the attention of anyone who's ever had a miserable thought in their lives.

The new material sits comfortably, although not completely seamlessly, beside the old; "Misty Water" is particularly affecting through it sadly cannot compete with the inspired vitriol of "Tunnel of Love", an anti- love which put a generation off marriage.

The evening is shot through with Terry Hall's black sense of humour; for someone who is supposed to be so obsessed with the sad side of life, he knows how to tell a good joke. But then, he was responsible for launching Bananarama's career.

For the second encore, an unexpected ray of sunshine appears in the form of an acoustic rendition of Burt Bacharach's "This Guy's in Love with You" and for the first time in two decades everything seems right in Terry Hall's world as this one simple sentiment takes a tender grip on the hearts of everyone.

Comments