Rounding off the UK leg of their European tour in Manchester’s Academy, the maestros played to a crowd of the young and curious, ex-punks with their nine to fives, and punks who hadn’t forgotten what it was to be punk. Tartan skinnies, mohicans and all.
The Stranglers inherited a crowd who had been warmed up by support act The Popes. Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down and Outlaw Heaven whipped up a suitably rowdy atmosphere with a vivacious Irish folk/rock sound and heavily-tattooed front-man Paul ‘Mad dog’ McGuinness declaring that: “God gave us The Stranglers, cocaine and women.”
After being taken to hospital shortly before a gig at Oxford Academy on March 12, founding band member Jet Black was not able to play. His regular replacement, drum technician Ian Barnard filled in for the 70 year-old with welcoming cheers from the crowd.
Black’s absence was felt, but the crowd were not going to complain too loudly – there was, after all, some serious rocking to be done.
After kicking off the show with new track Lowlands, The Stranglers played hard and fast. Selections from an extensive back catalogue were flawlessly delivered, along with tunes from new album Giants. When a band with a history as rich as The Stranglers’ take to the stage, variety is par for the course.
Peaches and ethereal classic Golden Brown, a showcase for Baz Warne’s vocal flexibility, effectively complemented upbeat punk hits such as No More Heroes and Hanging Around.
With Warne and Barnard, Jean-Jacques Burnel on bass and Dave Greenfield on keyboards, the band played their 1978 rework of Dionne Warwick’s soul classic Walk On By in a truly Stranglers style – blending their iconic keyboards with Warne’s edgy vocals reminiscent to The Jam’s Paul Weller.
It is testament to any band that can so successfully rework a song so iconic to its own genre. Like putty in their hands, All Day And All Of The Night of rock superstars The Kinks had precisely the same treatment. As the penultimate song of the show, it went down with rapturous applauds, whistles and screams.
One of the most rewarding things about watching The Strangler’s live is that whether or not you always buy into their lyrical choices, their musical ability is breathtaking. Baz Warne’s powerful, flexible vocals and equally powerful guitar riffs are not tools available to most front-men.
With everyone from punks clad in The Damned t-shirts enjoying The Stranglers concerts for what may be the last time, to a young girl sat on her father’s shoulders shaking her fist to the riffs of anarchy; The Stranglers did not fail to live up to their reputation and provided a show worthy of legends.