Black And White was their third album, originally released in May 1978, making it as high as #2 in the album charts in the UK, and the band would play the whole album before then raiding the rest of their oeuvre.
Before I go any further, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not really a big Stranglers fan – I’ve owned their second album, No More Heroes, for 25 years, but never bothered to get any of their others, as even that one only gets an ‘it’s OK’ from me. So, don’t be surprised if this review is less than enthusiastic, and somewhat less in-depth than many others.
I met my gig companions, Lee & Ali, at Ma Egertons for a fairly rapid (once served) pint of Dizzy Blonde, with the pub packed with aging punk fans on their way to the gig, as you will tell from the t-shirts on show detailed later on.
We got into the venue midway through The Alarm’s set, so we had apparently missed a few of my favourite songs judging by what we heard. I have a bit of a soft spot for them having bought their Top 10 debut Declaration on vinyl when it came out way back in 1984 as in impressionable teenager.
Singer Mike Peters is the only original member left standing, despite a(nother) recent health scare, meaning no Dave Sharp, who later went on to form a band with fellow guitarist Henry McCullough, who was in Paul McCartney & Wings for Red Rose Speedway (including a great solo on My Love) and Live And Let Die.
While supping a bottle of Tribute, we had a couple of tracks off 1985’s sophomore release Strength, including the anthemic Spirit Of ’76, complete with references to Mathew Street, The Beatles and Walton jail, as well as a resolutely un-punk guitar solo by James Stevenson (originally in punk second-raters Chelsea, he has also played with the likes of The Cult and Gene Loves Jezebel).
The rather underwhelming My Town from 2006’s Under Attack was followed by set closer, and peak for me, Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke? from their first album.
Some decent interval music, including Blur and Roxy Music, came before the main act strode onto stage. There are two founding members of The Stranglers left, with guitarist Baz Warne having been with them since 2000, taking over as the latest replacement for original, iconic singer Hugh Cornwell in 2006.
Brooding bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel and Dave Greenfield on keyboards are the two remnants from the band’s formation in 1974. They became part of the punk movement thanks to supporting Ramones and Patti Smith on their first British tours, despite much music press suspicion due to their age (original drummer Jet Black was in his late thirties), musical virtuosity, use of keyboards and often questionable lyrical content (song titles like Bring On The Nubiles, I Feel Like A Wog and Tits give a clue!). The current line-up is completed by Jim MacAulay on drums.
The band went straight into playing the whole of Black And White, before the set picked up a little with the brooding (Get A) Grip (On Yourself). It was not until this point that any of them uttered a word, with Baz briefly acknowledging the crowd’s presence.
The rest of the set jumped around their career, with the occasional highlights including their cover of the Bacharach & David classic Walk On By that they released on a bonus 7” with initial copies of Black And White, but is much better (and better known) when sung by Dionne Warwick and the mighty Isaac Hayes.
Other better moments in the show were Always The Sun, that twice hit the UK Top 30 singles chart, in 1986 and 1990, and Brunel’s Five Minutes from the debut album, before the main set ended with I Feel Like A Wog and Something Better Change, both from second album No More Heroes.
The encores of course were the most recognisable songs, though they still left out Golden Brown and Skin Deep. Peaches and Hanging Around from debut album Rattus Norvegicus came before they left the stage again.
They of course returned, first for Go Buddy Go, b-side of 1977 single Peaches, before what remains comfortably their best ever song, No More Heroes, a Top 10 hit that Elastica were certainly somewhat familiar with! Dave Greenfield played his keyboard solo while downing a drink.
As we had moved to the bar area during the set (with one of the party actually leaving the gig early), we were able to get back to Ma Egertons in good time, for a final pint, with Ian Prowse (recent gig reviewed here!) also heading to the same venue.
I hadn’t expected great things from the gig, so I can’t say I was disappointed. Nevertheless, I am pleased that I have got to see The Stranglers and The Alarm at least once in my life, though it will probably remain just the once.
I wore my red Buzzcocks tee. As I mentioned, I spotted many other band t-shirts, with an understandable bias towards old punk acts including Ramones, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, X-Ray Spex and 999, as well as Motörhead and PiL.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: