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Live Review: The Stranglers – Brighton 14/3/13

Four decades on, the legendary rockers are still touring. Find out what we thought of their gig at the Brighton Dome.

Band: The Stranglers
Venue: Brighton Dome, Brighton
Date: 14th March 2013

With four decades of rock and roll under their belt, 17 albums, numerous tours, a variety of health issues and some criminal records, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Stranglers had seen and done it all.  In fact in 1990, when original singer and co-founder Hugh Cornwell left the band stating they were a spent force, you’d be forgiven for thinking they might not even be here at all.

The effects of time are evident in the line-up though. Singer/Guitarist Baz Warne has replaced Cornwell, joining the group in 2000; and Jim MacCauley is the stand in drummer for tonight due to Jet Black‘s (real name Brian Duffy) recent health issues. Only Bassist/Singer Jean-Jacques Burnel and keyboard extraordinaire Dave Greenfield have weathered the storm, playing together since 1974.

With so much history, so many classics and such an incredible range of styles behind them, it’s difficult to know what sort of set the band would treat us to.  Their early punk stuff, which caused so much controversy amongst press and audiences across the worldTheir more progressive music from the 80s and 90s?, or perhaps something from their latest album, the 2012 release ‘Giants‘?  The choice is staggering.

The moment the lights begin to dim, their intentions are clear.  A huge wall of neon strip lights  behind the band starts rolling through the years from 1974 to 2013 before pausing, and the band breaking into opening track ‘Toiler On The Sea‘ from 1978.  It’s a bold start, with the band clearly enjoying themselves from the start. A relaxed swagger and broad smile is what 40 years of gigging can do for you.

As Baz Warne warms up the crowd, thanking us for coming out on a bitterly cold evening, he makes light of keyboard player, Stranglers veteran, and local Brighton boy Greenfield’s return to his home town. “He’s been eating rock and walking along the prom all day” he comments, the words ‘Welcome Home Dave’ clearly scrawled on the back of his 2 keyboards.

Switching straight into ‘Mercury Rising‘ from their latest album, the set plays out like a jukebox on random.  You know all the songs are by the same band, and yet the variety in style is impressive.  A huge roar goes up as Burnel plays the opening bars of ‘Peaches‘ the standout track for me, and yet without stopping for breath or rapturous applause, they lead straight into ‘Always the Sun‘ and the controversial ‘Bring on the nubiles‘ from 1977.

Warne brings on an acoustic guitar to play 2 tracks from the latest album, and we’re treated to the surprise of the evening.  The band’s original drummer Jet Black joins the stage, his heart problems limiting his involvement to just the latter part of the set.  However, despite turning 74 last year, it’s clear from the outset he can still smash the hell out of the skins.

Two more huge hits follow, ‘Golden Brown‘ and ‘Skin Deep‘ before the band leave the stage.  A quick tune up by the roadies and they’re back.  Ready for one last song, with both Jet Black and Jim MacCauley on their own drum kit. “Two drum kits on stage at the same time” Burnel says, “Is there anything The Stranglers can’t do?”  And as he slaps the opening Bass riff for ‘No More Heroes‘,  Burnel stumbles, and the band need to restart.  “I’ve lost my mojo” he says before breaking into their greatest hit.  And at that, everyone is with them, a crowd of all ages enjoying the spectacular entertainment and one phenomenal achievement.

Lost their Mojo? Bring on the next 40 years.

Reviewer: Chris Van Praag

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