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Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017

  by Denzil Watson

published: 27 / 5 / 2017

Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017


Denzil Watson watches the Stranglers play a powerful set of their hits and also little known material at Rock City in Nottingham

More column inches have been written about the Stranglers than any other punk band. While other bands have come and gone, the Stranglers have been a relentless and omnipresent force, touring all over the world and releasing album after album. In some ways it’s hard to say something new or insightful about the band that have, quite literally, done it all. They may now be down to two original members (talismanic bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel and keyboard wizard Dave Greenfield) but live they still remain a force to be reckoned with. Jim MacAulay has now taken over drumming duties on a permanent basis from the band’s founding septuagenarian drummer, Jet Black. The loss of front-man and guitarist Hugh Cornwall was a big blow to the band when he quit the band back in 1990, but, since Baz Warne’s promotion from guitarist to co-front-man of the band with Jean-Jacques Burnel in 2006, they quite literally haven’t looked back. Spring tours have become something of a tradition of the band and 2017 is no exception. The band again successfully filled large venues up and down the UK. When I caught them five-days in to the tour at a packed-out Rock City I found the band to be in top form. Such is the band’s confidence that they always choose top-notch support acts. This time tour support Ruts DC opened the night with an excellent set mixing old classics such as 'Babylon's Burning', 'In a Rut' and 'Staring at the Rude Boys' with newer material such as the title track of their new album, 'Music Must Destroy'. With the venue already full, they went down a storm. After the 'Waltz-in-Black' intro-tape has finished and the two-note bass refrain of 'The Raven' echoes round the venue there is only one band that matters. Even 'Was It You?' from 1987’s 'Dreamtime' album, shorn of the horns, sounds heavier and more substantive then I can remember. Baz Warne has to wait to the third song to get his first vocal outing on a muscular version of 'Sometimes'. The lack of new material since 2012’s 'Giants' album has been a moot point with many fans and tonight we again get none of the new material the band have alluded to in interviews, What we do get though is a rare rendition of '15 Steps', the final track of the aforementioned 'Giants' album. It doesn’t quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the songs that preceded and follow it ('Grip' and 'Nice’n’Sleazy') but it is a nice diversion. 'Never to Look Back' from the band’s disappointing '10' album is another brave and interesting song choice. In terms of the hits, the band have always been in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” situation when it comes to playing them. The quick-fire trio of 'Always the Sun', 'Strange Little Girl' and 'Golden Brown' acts as an appeaser to those that love the band for their best known tracks. It’s the following two tracks that, however, get the hardcore fans frothing at the mouth. A hypnotically bass-heavy rendition of 'Bear Cage' steals the show while 'Who Wants The World' shows just how good the band were at penning genuinely off-kilter pop songs. Their rendition of what has to be one of the greatest ever cover versions, Dionne Warwick’s 'Walk On By', leaves a bit to be desired as Dave Greenfield appears to go slightly AWOL during his solo in the song’s long instrumental passage. A second track from 'Giants', the epic 'Freedom is Insane' nicely demonstrates the band’s ability to reach the heights of their previous song-writing exploits. Sadly things go a little astray on 'Genetix' and the band fail to properly synch until the outro segment of the track. The Men in Black quickly make amends with 'Rattus Norvegicus' crowd-pleaser 'Hanging Around', a sinister '5 Minutes' and show closer 'Down in the Sewer'. “This is the classic collection whatever the fuck that means, and this is the oldest of them all,” announces Baz before launching into the first of the night’s two encores 'Go Buddy Go'. With only one tune left to play, there are no prizes for guessing the song in question. JJ bangs his bass before launching into the bass intro for 'No More Heroes' and the crowd summon up the strength for one last round of pogoing. It may not be a flawless performance tonight but it’s one that shows just why the Stranglers have outlived all of their peers and prospered; an ability to repeatedly explore new musical territory while staying true to their roots. And of course, knowing how to put on a blisteringly good live show. Photographs by Denzil Watson

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Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017

Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017

Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017

Stranglers - Rock City, Nottingham, 13/3/2017

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