“I think it’s going to be a hot one”, growled Stranglers’ front man Baz Warne. He had every reason to think so as The Powerstation was filled to capacity with vintage punk rockers ready to rock out to the nice ‘n’ sleazy tunes of the meninblack.
These days there are only two of the original four Stranglers touring with the band. Singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell bailed out somewhat acrimoniously back in 1990 while drummer Jet Black has been force off the road to due ill health and old age…he’s 77.
The two remaining originals…Jean-Jacques Burnel (bass) and Dave Greenfield (keyboards) are both in their mid-60s and seem to be in good shape. They are also responsible for the much of what sets The Stranglers apart from other bands of their time…big, fluid bass lines and rippling keyboard lines that run through their dark, sometimes sordid, songs.
The drumming duties are now handled by Jim MacAulay, who was celebrating his birthday on the night, while lead vocals and guitar now falls to Baz Warne, who does an excellent job of recreating Cornwell’s menacing stage presence.
On this Wednesday night, the anticipation from the crowd was palpable and it seemed every other punter had queued up to buy a Stranglers T-shirt.
At 9:30 the lights went down and the band came on. Dressed in their traditional black they launched into Toiler On The Sea from 1978’s Black And Whitealbum, sounding every bit like The Stranglers of my youth.
When Rattus Norvegicus, the band’s debut album was released in 1977 I was immediately drawn to them…their sound was unlike any of the other British punk bands. Yes, they had the energy and the attitude of contemporaries like the Pistols and The Clash, but Greenfield’s organ added some welcome musicality and melodic sense while still sounding dangerous and new.
Tonight the band did a fine job of mixing in the hits with lesser-known, but still interesting, material.
Get A Grip, Nice ‘N’ Sleazy and Golden Brown were served up early, the latter a clear crowd favourite as was Always The Sun, which got the fans singing along.
Baz then broke out his acoustic guitar for the reading of the pensive Midnight Summer Dream before Burnel took over the vocals for Freedom Is Insane.
Despite their age, the band still has plenty of life in them…Burnel even managed to kick over his mic stand at the end of Skin Deep, before hammering out the iconic bass line to Peaches.
The set ended with Tank, just before 11pm, but the band and the crowd were in no mood to call it a night just yet. The quartet returned to perform an extended version of Walk On By which threatened to morph into The Doors’ Light My Fireduring the keyboard/guitar solo section of the song.
Then it was a ripping run through of The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night.
The band left the stage but were quick to return with Go Buddy Go, a fifties-style rocker which, we were told, was the first song Burnel ever wrote and finally the evening ended with a snarling version of No More Heroes.
The Stranglers’ (and their fans) glory days may be behind them, but they sure did a fine job of recreating them. Yes, it felt like 1977 all over again.
The Stranglers set list:
- Toiler On The Sea
- Straighten Out
- (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
- I’ve Been Wild
- Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
- Golden Brown
- Always The Sun
- Midnight Summer Dream
- Freedom Is Insane
- Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
- Norfolk Coast
- I Feel Like A Wog
- Skin Deep
- Time Was Once On My Side
- Lost Control
- Walk On By
- All Day And All Of The Night
- Go Buddy Go
- No More Heroes