For a band with a career that has spanned nearly 30 years, The Stranglers look in remarkably good shape. Despite the drugs, the changes in musical direction, losing their original singer, losing their original singer's replacement, the good albums and the frankly abysmal albums, the band are still standing strong with some of their original line up and a back catalogue full of catchy and familiar songs. Most importantly, the band looks damn good on stage, resplendent in uniform black. Bassist JJ Burnell is built like a tank, the veins on his neck showing above a tight muscle hugging t-shirt as he pumps out his familiar 'barracuda bass' sound. 'New' recruit Baz Warne on guitar and vocals provides more than enough spit and bile necessary to deliver the songs of the Stranglers, whilst, cool as ever, Dave Greenfield delivers some of the most memorable and recognisable keyboard lines from the 70's and 80's one handed as he sups his way through the contents of a personal bar. Most notably, The Stranglers stage show is so un-complicated for a band of their size, no road crew constantly adjusting things, no constant swapping of guitars, no fathing about, just tune after tune delivered with a consistent high energy and professionalism.
The stranglers are one of those long lasting bands with a plethora of songs you forgot about, as opening riff follows opening chord, seas of faces in the crowd smile in recognition, singing and bobbing along (the crowd is generally a little too old for dancing). The songs not only span decades, but musical fads and trends, from earlier sparse and aggressive Punk numbers, to disco tinged crowd pleasers and keyboard heavy ballads to remind of the come down from the hedonistic 80's, always tinged with that element of bleakness counterpointed with optimism that the Stranglers inject into their music. Not only illustrating the world around them, but also documenting the band's own journey through the music business and its pitfalls. This is predominately a hits tour, fortunately (or unfortunately) the more embarrassing and misguided concept album tracks from the bands down period are omitted from the set, so those wishing to hear "The Men in Black" were sorely disappointed, but the rest of us enjoyed a night in the company of music that has accompanied at least part of most people's lives under 30 and played by some of the coolest middle-aged men around.
Published in Inpress