Gig Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown / Gig Photos by Ken Harrison

The Stranglers

So it’s THAT time of year again – I set my calendar to remind me of this date a year ago; way before tour dates were announced. Spot on schedule one of the UK’s most enduring bands, The Stranglers are back in town. These guys unique style has lead to 23 UK top 40 singles and 17 UK top 40 albums and with a true stubbornness to call it quits, even with the loss of more than one lead singer; they’ve successfully achieved a career spanning four decades.

The StranglersThe Stranglers

As I turn up to the 02 Academy there’s massive queues. The problem appears to be something to do with a failure in the ticketing system, which has led to quite a delay. By the time most people are still getting into the venue after 8, the support act is already on stage.

The Godfathers

The Godfathers
The Godfathers

The Godfathers formed way back in ’85 by Peter and Chris Coyne after the demise of previous band The Sid Presley Experience. Whilst they made their name on the indie / punk scene, they didn’t really get a break in the UK and spilt. Various reformations over the years, in the late noughties they reformed with the original line-up. This didn’t last long, but now they’ve found stable group and path and have been recording – new album due soon I believe, plus lots of dates including this month long tour with The Stranglers. They remain loud, aggressive, rock, rhythm and blues punk – Chris Coyne has deep raspy vocals and a no nonsense attitude to hecklers. They go down well. Check them out on Facebook for more information.

The Stranglers
The Stranglers

Busy noisy crowd as we wait for The Stranglers. Crowd is chatting excitedly, plus a couple of blokes who should know far better and have drunk too much falling down water. One is practically passed out on a sofa. The other hurls a huge volume over the carpet, before the bouncers clock him. Lovely.

The Stranglers

The crowd is expectant and whistles start. Formed in ’74 by founding members Jean Jaques (J.J.) Burnel, Jet Black and Hugh Cornwell, Dave Greenfield joined them within a year. A series of successful punk hits, then a more commercial yet unique sound during the eighties, The Stranglers became a regular not only in the charts, but also on the touring scene. Cornwell may have left in 1990, but not to be outdone, The Stranglers became one of the few bands, especially at that time, to replace their lead singer and carry on, employing Paul Roberts on vocals. Then Roberts left 13 years ago, but that was no stopping the boys, bring on guitarist Baz Warne. The incredible Jet Black, is still drumming away at 74, and now shares the role with Brum-born ‘youngster’ Jim Macauly. Macauly plays the first half the set, then Black, then a shared duty double drummers. Black will be appearing on this tour as long as there’s space for two kits.

The Stranglers
The Stranglers

Stage is darkened. And on they come to the cheeky ‘Waltzinblack’ as the strip light backdrop to their set scrolls The Stranglers. The crowd cheer – their heroes are back in town. The set starts off – with bass beat and meandering synths its ‘Toiler in the Sea’ which goes down really well with the crowd, clearly chuffed to get their annual fix. The beat starts and we’re into ‘Grip’ – get singing – “But the money’s no good – just get a grip on your self.…” The Stranglers are indeed, on a mission tonight.

The Stranglers

Warne: “Good evening night – wet, horrible fuckin’ night, thank you for coming… will you welcome on drums, from Birmingham, Jim Macauly.…” Macauly’s is giving it some; The Stranglers at their best are frenetic and are as they go into ‘Norfolk Coast.’

Now it’s ‘J.J.’ time – a plethora of songs where he takes the vocal lead. “J.B. [Jet Black] will be here in a moment…” Warne responds to an eager punter. And then it’s the classic bass riff that is ‘Peaches.’

The Stranglers

And next up the mild mannered floating mid 80s hit about a subject we sorely need – ‘Always The Sun’ – the crowd chant back the chorus. Several songs are from this era tonight – including ‘European Female’ which seamlessly merges from ‘Midnight Summer Dream.’ And then at 10.20 the crowd cheer even louder as Jet Black takes the drums – “Jet Black… Jet Black… Jet Black…” chant the crowd, as he drums the intro and takes us into ‘Genetix.’

The Stranglers

‘Golden Brown’ remains the beautiful warbling masterpiece with THAT melody that you just melt into, even now. Then we get ‘Skin Deep’ before ‘Nice n Sleazy’ with the dah dah dah and the wicked bass.

For the encore Burnel presents Warne with framed discs – it’s his 500th gig with the band tonight. ”Only been with The Stranglers 13 years… first time I’m speechless… really touched…”

The Stranglers

“This is the Feel It Live Tour – can you feel it?” as Burnel strums his bass deeper and deeper ‘til it goes through the entire audience – quiet literally. “I fuckin’ can!” says Warne. “Thank you, you lovely people you enjoyed yourselves?” Before we get ‘Something Better Change’ followed by the classic ‘No More Heroes’. Quick break and final track ‘Tank’ with a cheery “Bye-bye” from Warne. Cracking 1 hour 50 set – full of energy – and my ears still buzz from Burnel’s bass – guess I’m still ‘Feeling It.’

The Stranglers are indeed one hell of a class act, J.J. probably one of the best bass players out there. And they are still uncompromising. And still clearly love what they do after all these years. And they roll on. After this UK tour, and a few dates in Europe, they’re off to North America for the first time in 15 years (so I’m guessing therefore this’ll be a first for Warne). Then back for festivals in York and down south. Then winter will return and we can wait a little while. For the annual return of The Stranglers. Date is already in my diary lads….

The Stranglers

Set list:
1. Intro – Waltzininblack
2. Toiler in the Sea
3. Goodbye Toulouse
4. (Get a) Grip (on Yourself)
5. Norfolk Coast
6. Time was Once on my Side
7. Thrown Away
8. Freedom is Insane
9. Mercury Rising
10. Peaches
11. Always the Sun
12. Relentless
13. Bring on the Nubiles
14. Duchess
15. Midnight Summer Dream
16. European Female
17. Genetix
18.Bitching
19. Golden Brown
20. Skin Deep
21. Nice n Sleazy
22. Who Wants the World
23. Straighten Out

24. Something Better Change
25. No More Heroes

26. Tank

Listening: Too many great albums to mention but because it reminds me of a moment in time and it includes ‘Always The Sun’…..
Dreamtime [1986]

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