If there were to be an atomic bomb, it’s a reasonable bet to suggest that cockroaches and the London Taxi would survive, and on tonight’s evidence, so too would The Stranglers. They are on a current UK tour and played the 02 Academy in Birmingham tonight.
The venue is near to full, of mainly males in black leather jackets and DM’s, re-living part of their youth, watching a band they have seen numerous times. Thankfully most of the hair has gone that previously would have obscured the view, replaced in the main by bald or shaved heads. However this is the Academy and so the view is awful regardless. Whilst I’m on the subject of moaning the sound level also seemed low to me, and whilst this meant I didn’t need earplugs and didn’t end up with temporary tinnitus it also meant those usual band of folks who pay to go to a gig and stand talking throughout could also be heard more. Yes they were out in force again, sadly.
Ruts DC provide a suitable support, playing for just over an hour to a largely full house, the best reaction, as you’d expect is for ‘Babylon’s Burning’, which still sounds as fresh as it ever did. Ruts DC are very good but it The Stranglers we’re here to see, and at nine the strains of ‘Waltzin Black’ seep into the venue, closely followed by the band, JJ saluting the front row with his bass, opening with ‘The Raven’. It is pure adrenalin, as the ‘Men in Black’ roll back the years. Every song you’d want them to play gets played tonight, including the first single I ever bought ‘5 minutes’. For that song alone it was worth coming.
The crowd is suitably moshing and when someone comes over the barrier Baz announces “we’ve just had the oldest punk in the world come over the front, do they never fuckin’ learn”. Maybe they do as very few make the leap into the pit afterwards instead staying in the crowd enjoying themselves.
‘Golden Brown’ sees a wonderful sing-a-long, with the venue lit by a mirror ball, and almost makes you temporarily forget the subject matter in question. ‘Walk on by’ is glorious, as is ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’. The strippers may no longer be deemed ‘PC’ but the pounding bass is a joy to behold. In fact it’s only during the encore that I realise most of the gig my eyes have been glued to the bass, those lines bringing back ill-spent days in the school holidays trying to master them, in the hope of one day being able to play along to one of the songs from start to finish (it never happened).
It’s hard to pick a standout song tonight, but ‘Genetix’ would be high on the list, with Dave Greenfield taking vocal duties. It is hard to see how they could do this song live, but they do and it’s awesome, with heavy powerful keyboards and the constant rumbling bass.
After ninety minutes it’s time for an encore of ‘Go Buddy Go’ “the oldest Stranglers song there is” we are told, and ‘No More Heroes’, the final song to what has been a superb gig. It’s hard to believe the band have been going for over forty years, they certainly have never taken a back seat and their fans remain loyal, making the merchandise seller one of the busiest I’ve seen. Shirts are in the £20 range and there’s also a nice signed album for £35.
So to sum up this was ninety minutes of songs, and to be truly honest The Stranglers played every song I’d have wanted to hear. As the Scottish chap behind me growled after every song tonight, they were “Fuckin brilliant”. Indeed they were my son, indeed they were. The tour continues throughout the month.
Was it you?
(Get a) Grip (on yourself)
Never to look back
Always the Sun
Strange Little Girl
Who Wants the World?
Walk on by
Something Better Change
Freedom is Insane
Down in the Sewer
Go Buddy Go
No More Heroes
Reviewer: Glenn Raybone
Photographer: Ian Dunn