Gig Review | The Stranglers @ Tivoli Theatre | 18 April

English stalwarts The Stranglers have built an impressive musical pedigree across their four plus decades in the caper…Old Codgers indeed! And a rabidly loyal fan base is on hand on this very un-rock and roll of nights to rapturously welcome them back to Brisbane.

The typical punter on hand this evening would seem to be 50 shades of greying and sporting a Stranglers t shirt, and as the house lights dim the assembled throng let out a pent up roar for what is about to come, as their (No More) Heroes enter the arena to the unmistakable strains of jaunty keyboard waltz and unofficial theme song, Waltzinblack.

It takes a few tracks for the sound to crystallize and the band to hit full stride, as classic numbers Toiler on the Sea and (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) bring about early fits of excitement. Singer/guitarist Baz Warne clearly has all of the biting phrasing of legendary original singer Hugh Cornwell down pat…close your eyes and Cornwell may as well be in the room.

With original drummer, the aging Jet Black not well enough to make the long trip out here, fill in touring drummer Jim McAulay does an admirable job behind the kit, perfectly complementing the unmistakable sonic pairing of JJ Burnel and Dave Greenfield, whose bass and keyboard interplay were much define the essence of the band.

Burnel all in black is an ominously cool presence throughout, his thuggishly melodic bass rumble creating real heat from the stage and driving many of tonight’s tracks through floorboards and up into rib cages.

It’s great to see classic third record Black and White (which the band played in it’s entirety in the UK last year) featuring prominently tonight, with the fabulous Curfew being gratefully received by the true disciples.

Highlights continue to follow thick and fast…The unmistakable punk-reggae stylings of Nice and Sleazy see Burnel and Warne lock into an ominous death stare groove as they stalk the front of the stage together. This template is repeated later in the set with the evergreen Peaches, the crowd bouncing along gleefully to its sardonic summer stylings.

Golden Brown is a foregone inclusion, all elegantly off kilter and gorgeous, with Warne, somewhat the showman tonight, treating the moment with fist on chest reverence as the crowd sway and coo along in rapture.

Always The Sun and Skin Deep provide the obligatory moments of 80’s pop sheen, bringing crowd singalongs aplenty.

But soon it’s back to the angry young men of yore, as Hanging Around bursts forth and delivers three minutes of perpetual goose bump inducing abandon. Nuclear Device (Wizard of Auz), with it’s hilarious narrative referencing a certain corrupt ex peanut farmer from Queensland, is probably the safest bet to be on tonight’s setlist, the crowd roaring it’s approval when it inevitably materialises. I Feel Like A Wog is an unexpected but welcome inclusion, it’s rather un-PC subject matter belted out by the band with leering glee!

The giddily gorgeous Duchess and yet another Black and White highlight, the frenetic Tank, round out an impossibly jam packed set, the band disappearing briefly before being called back to deliver one final salvo. Keyboardist Dave Greenfield is playful and loose throughout, his extended mid song keyboard trilling turning their cover of easy listening hit Walk On By into a Doors’ian opus. This band have always been about throwing out the musical text book and playing by their own rules..

Burnels unmistakable bass-led intro to No More Heroes ensures the night ends on a ridiculous high, the feisty young punks returning to fling it back in our faces one last time and remind us all that true passion burns on far beyond aging bodies.

No Cornwell means No Stranglers is an argument I’ve heard used from some fans as an excuse for avoiding the current incarnation, but they’d be mistaken. Make no mistake, The Stranglers do still have ‘it’ and those on hand tonight bearing witness were mighty pleased to receive it back tonight with interest from a band still relevant and righteous.

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