Once again, the mighty Stranglers visit the hallowed floors of Rock City. This East Midlands venue is still a popular stopping off point for many touring bands today. It’s seen the likes of Bowie, Motörhead and the Jam over the years.
On this tour they bring with them Northern Ireland’s very own Therapy? An alternative metal band with a good following of fans. As is so typical of bands these days Therapy? fit into many genres including Punk Rock, Grunge and the odd, but appropriately named, Noise Rock. Whatever the definition of that may be!
Formed in 1989 these guys have 12 studio albums under the belt, giving them a good back catalogue to choose from. They start their 13-song set with ‘Die Laughing from the 94 release Troublegum. This has the fans going almost straight away. They seem to be well supported tonight as most of the fans gathered so far are rocking.
Next, we have ‘Stories’ from the ’95 album Infernal Love. Andy Cairns dedicated this one to the memory of Ken Dodd who sadly passed away this morning. The crowd love the tribute and make it a memorable song by singing along to most of it. Another dedication follows later in the set. The song ‘Tides’ is dedicated to their good friends Stiff Little Fingers. The crowd appreciate the call out as the buoyant momentum carries on throughout the set. During the 45-minute set Cairns also points out its drummer Neil Cooper’s birthday. He fails to point out which one it is but the crowd don’t mind as they give him hell!
Therapy?’s distinctive sound of distorted guitars and oversampled sounds have had the crowd bouncing from the start. Cairns often strange staring eyes machining him look neither intimidating or comical just add to the great performance of the set. The roadie sorting the guitars, playing along and knocking out the sound effects seems to have enjoyed it as much as the fans. The set finishes with ‘Potato Junkie’ an apt title of a song from an Irish band.
A great 45minute warm up.
During the set change sees a portion of the crowd leave. It looks like for some, Therapy? should have been the headline act, a few years ago that would certainly have been the case.
Come on to the by now obligatory Waltz in Black being played over the PA. Baz and JJ take up to the front amid loud cheers and whistles, meanwhile Dave Greenfield and touring drummer Jim MacAulay find their way around the back. Rumour has it that Jim MacAulay is now the official drummer as Jet Black has called time on his right to the drummer’s throne.
Starting off with ‘Curfew’ from the Black and White album of 1978, quickly see’s Baz on the money with JJ smashing the distinctive notes out from his bass. A more unusual song to start with but it builds nicely into the distinctive Stranglers sound once the keyboards join in. ‘The enemy has cut down all the power’, ‘London south of the Thames is invaded’ and so it goes on. ‘Grip’ and ‘15 Steps’ follow. ‘Grip’ seeing us back in more familiar territory if you’re not a true diehard fan.
JJ plays with the togs in the pit, dancing around waving his foot in front of their lenses, one receives a kick to his newly acquired hernia scar (me) [tee, hee: ed] thinking I’ve annoyed him I was a bit reluctant to look from behind the camera lest I should receive a head butt for my cheek. No JJ is apologising profusely, What! A strangler apologising, how time have changed. I can now say I’ve a Strangulated Hernia (thanks ed; [you’re welcome: ed]).
‘15’ sees an almost ‘chicken picking’ guitar intro, showing off how adept Baz Warnes skills are, carrying the song along as JJ’s steady bass bounces around the melody. A nice shuffle from drummer Jim balances the song along with the trademark keyboard sound of Greenfield as he tickles the ivories over the top of it all. Classic Stranglers from 2012 album Giants.
‘Nuclear Device’ with its Mario inspired keyboard sound is next followed by ‘Norfolk Coast’ with its distinctive bass riff and upbeat distorted guitar, the soft vocals give this an almost ballad sound, if the Stranglers did ballads that is.
‘Peaches’ kicks in with the distinctive bass accompanied by MacAuly’s lazy bass drum and hi-hat. Greenfield’s keyboard never far away, filling in the trademark sound. Baz has little to do on this albeit a slight strum now and again. Keyboards are the order of the day and Greenfield shows that he can still knock it out. Classic Stranglers again.
‘Relentless’ is next with its almost ‘Spaghetti Western’ guitar riff, but fear not, the keyboards let you know what band is playing. Baz is enjoying himself, dancing to and fro, in front of the mic, he and JJ Brunel sharing singing duties. A 5th member of the band was trialled for a short period but the went back to the traditional 4-piece line up preferring the dynamic it would seem.
‘Don’t Bring Harry’ sees a more normal piano sounding Greenfield as some slow vocal follows. This is classic Raven Era Stranglers, a brilliant track not heard too often referring to an addiction to heroin. ‘Harry likes to play all night, I’ll do what Harry says’. Warnes simple guitar work breaks the morose lyrics of Brunel as he sings about ‘Harry’.
And then the uplifting Harpsichord piano of Greenfield heralds the intro into what was once seen as a sell out to the record company. ‘Golden Brown ‘once hated by the die-hard fans is given the full treatment. Mirror balls dancing projected light around the venue has the crowd in raising the roof singing along to this once maligned tune. Again, how times have changed. It is now a highlight of the set.
‘Always The Sun’ follows and then it’s that unusual Dionne Warwick cover ‘Walk On By’, again, another crowd pleaser. Greenfiield, hidden behind a mountain of keyboards, yet again, shows the crowd his prowess on the black and whites. Looking for the world like Billy from D.I.Y. S.O.S he certainly knows which order to hit the keys, unlike Billy.
‘Water’ and ‘Something Better Change’ are up next before we get another fan favourite ‘Duchess’ a timeless track from the 1979 album, The Raven. ‘Just Like Nothing On Earth’ is next with its spoken lyrics and emphasis on the ways ‘Earth’ is slurred, another lesser heard track from the ’81 album The Gospel According to The Men in Black. The squeaky high pitched ‘Alien’ voices of the studio album missing, or seem to be to my battered ears.
‘Hanging Around’ see’s back to familiar ground again. The crowd are up and bouncing, maybe not quite ‘pogoing’ and ‘moshing’ as maybe they might once have done. Looking around there is a good cross section of silver surfers in, well those who still have hair, now and again you spot someone who has tried and is wearing full punk get up. Something I find a bit strange. I never saw The Stranglers as a punk band back in the day. They seemed to fill a void between punk and rock, Alternative, Indie, call it whatever but at the time it was owned by the Stranglers.
‘Freedom Is Insane’ leads us to ‘I Feel Like A Wog’ from No More Heroes, a politically incorrect song title but describes the looks that an alternative life style brings with it. The song is littered with references to ‘Wogs’, ‘Golliwogs’ and persecution. This goes down well with the gathered crowd who show their appreciation by shouting the catch line back to the band.
Stranglers IV gives us ‘London Lady’ and then ‘Tank’ from Black and White finishes the 21-strong set.
A brief respite while the crowd exercise their vocals by demanding more, brings the four back on stage. Having seen the set list it’ll be interesting what they chose to play, a choice of any 2 from 4. Sorted with the steady staccato riff of Warnes as JJ shouts ‘Buddy’ in to the mic several times, we have ‘Go Buddy Go’. An up-tempo number which in the past saw Cornwall and Brunel swop instruments.
No Stranglers gig can be completed without the favourite ‘No More Heroes’. This firm favourite see’s the crowd bouncing as high as they can. The band are thoroughly enjoying the night. The piano break see’s Greenfield raise his ever-present tumbler of amber liquid to the crowd as he plays the solo he drinks, emptying the glass as he does so. The crowd cheer his antics….and the song is over.
The traditional March Stranglers tour has completed night 5. As ever the band are tight and musically entertaining. They have played a set consisting of a few oddball songs not often heard live but in doing so have shown that they have a lot of songs worthy of an airing.
With a set that had lights galore and the use of both Rock City’s huge mirror balls it showed that The Stranglers have evolved. For those classic tracks that the crowd love to hear that were missed from the set, well there’s always next year, I’ll see you there!
Words and photo’s: Manny Manson.