The determination and ebullient nature of The Stranglers fanbase in Cambridge last Friday night at The Corn Exchange was a real demonstration and indicative of what it is that the band brings and what their music evokes in so many. To say that they were pioneers and unique sounds so trite but it is ultimately the truth. They were instigators in the early punk scene in the 70’s but equally created some songs that are musically and lyrically breath-taking that weave such a varied, and truly oppositional set list sometimes leaving you thinking you are hearing two different bands.
But, what you see is nothing other than the precision of execution that appears almost effortless no matter what the tempo. Taking into account that only two of the original band members are on stage, you then come to realise what they have actually managed to do. The band continues to gain more devout followers while they attempt to improve on perfection regularly with every solid performance. Their technically challenging songs are seamless with every note and none disappoint.
With lead singer and guitarist Baz Warne having replaced Hugh Cornwall eighteen years ago, they show no signs of wear or age, they are still as potent and technically adept. As they strolled easily on stage, it is clearly a walk down familiar paths for many in the audience as the crowd thrashed about getting as raucous as middle-aged folk can do without causing any true harm. It is a blessed and clearly golden-hued revisit to the punk days of yore for many.
They started their set with ‘Curfew’ and covered their catalogue more completely from there bringing out the expected pleasers but also some not-so-often aired songs. Baz announced after the first song, ‘I can smell something exotic in here, or is it just me?’ which had everyone roaring in agreement. That stoked the moshiness of the crowd down front while the band rolled into ‘Grip’ next, deftly displaying their talent for urgent, slick and gritty mingled with the raw nature of so much of their music. Much of their lyrics are well-managed dissidence which from the start garnered them the following they still have today and rightly so. Further, that’s what draws more fans consistently is how relevant their subject matter is and continues to be.
When they got to ‘Always The Sun’, you got to see the band really stretch their legs which lends to their range ably by combing such complex chords and arrangements. It came across as eloquent as ever and judging from the crowd accompaniment, it was received with great love. A personal favourite in the set, ‘Relentless’, had such a tight constancy and with the relaxed harmonies, it just flowed beautifully.
For song ‘Harry’, JJ Burnel took the lead vocals for the first time that night (which he did several times throughout) and again, there was such a change in atmosphere as there was no bass just a simple, quite pared back feel yet very affecting. It again proves this band has such ability to transform their aura song to song. And, throughout the night, Dave Greenfield’s punchy, eclectic and yet liquid keyboards was endlessly amazing.
Despite one heckler, the band and audience were symbiotic with lots of back-and-forth, and so many fans grinning non-stop throughout the night was actually quite endearing seeing their unfettered pleasure. It has to be mentioned that the production was uber stylish as the videoscape mixed with the lighting made it an all-together ‘Experience’ for each song.
So, make sure to catch The Stranglers during their tour this Spring, its one not to miss!
Photos by ©PremiumPhotographic
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