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The Comeback Special

I headed down to Ipswich Film Theatre to catch a special viewing of The Comeback Special, aired during the SPILL festival, and what a comeback it was…

The Comeback Special is a unique multi-format project featuring a live album, exclusive photos, an art book and a beautifully shot film of THE THE’s 2018 Royal Albert Hall Concert, the first performance in sixteen years for lead singer Matt Johnson. 

Directed by Tom Pope, the film sees the return of other previous band members such as James Eller on bass, DC Collard on keyboards and Earl Harvin on drums with new member Barrie Cadogan on guitar. Tom Pope directing abilities cannot be understated, if there was a moment where a performer was emotionally invested in the song, he would pan in, leaving no room for your eyes to capture anything else, if there was a moment where the band was working together on a bridge, the camera perfectly captured their camaraderie. 

This film perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a part of a band. Despite Matt Johnson being the obvious appeal for audience members, every member had their turn to shine. 

Although new to the band, Barrie Cadogan did not let the side down, belting out goosebump-inducing guitar solos that rattled through the speakers and had my foot tapping the entire time. Every time you think he’s reached the peak of the solo, he pushes it even higher. His laid-back and chill approach to playing really complimented the other band members and his higher-pitched voice wondrously harmonised with that of Johnson’s dulcet tones. 

I’d be a fool not to mention the fantastic keyboard playing of DC Collard. The passion he invested into every song was beyond admirable and, even when he wasn’t playing, you felt his presence and noted his absence. A solo of his towards the end even had Matt Johnson and James Eller just standing and watching in awe.

Earl Harvin was especially a standout and, while his performance was more tamed than the likes of DC Collard, his playing never missed a beat. Harvin has the perfect ear for when his instrument needs to be heard and noticed and when it needs to be more mellow and in the background in order to heighten the other members. 

Of course, I couldn’t complete this review without mentioning the fantastic Matt Johnson. His voice was so unique, deep and smooth. The tone of his voice worked in tandem with the harrowing lyrics and stories he detailed. This is the rawest you will probably see Johnson, he details his feelings of loss and sorrow throughout the performance but also his joy at returning to performing and reminiscing about when he was young and full of teenage glee. 

The playing of this band was so harmonious, there was no stealing the attention from one another for a greedy moment of fame, it was all gleefully handed over to one another almost in pride and anticipation of each other’s performance. The band members clearly have a love for one another and it permeates the entire performance.

This filmed concert was emotional, entertaining and entirely unmissable! It was an incredible addition to SPILL and I can’t wait to see what they get up to next. 

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