March 6th 2018
The Stranglers kick off their 2018 Definitive Tour in Liverpool with support from Therapy? Dave Jennings reviews.
The Stranglers Definitive Tour with support from Therapy? is a hot ticket this cold spring and opened up in Liverpool, ‘Music City’, where both bands have a strong track record of live performances.
Therapy? are out on the road having been working on their fifteenth studio album and kicked off the tour in uncompromising fashion. Frontman Andy Cairns is energized by his “dream come true” of supporting The Stranglers and leads the band through a rousing set that whets the appetite for the forthcoming album. With a set that boasts classics like Turn, Lonely Crying Only and Teethgrinder, Therapy? are a must see so the strong advice is (not that you will need it) check stage times and get I from the start. Ending with a blistering Nowhere, Potato Junkie and Screamager, they leave the crowd suitably warmed u for the main event.
And so here we are again, in this clammy, compressed yet essential venue that really should include souvenir packets of condensation with the tickets. People have been musing on why it is the Definitive Tour but really, when the band hit the stage, they provide all the clarification required with all criteria satisfied. Having returned in triumph from their Australian tour (which is a nice change for an English team) they are match fit and in mid-season form and with a partisan crowd behind them they are nigh on unstoppable.
So, why ‘Definitive’? Well, let’s consider the reasons why, over the past seven or eight years, the band has become one of the most consistently-strong selling bands on the live circuit.
Starting with the set-list, The Stranglers quite simply boast one of the most original and innovative back-catalogues there is and the Spring tour is traditionally the place where they flaunt this to best effect. Trying to avoid spoilers so early in the tour, fans can rest assured that there is the usual mix of non-negotiables and rarely-aired gems. The lyrical subject-matter is often dark, foreboding even, and can still seem painfully relevant at times; who could totally dismiss the dystopian visions of Curfew in light of recent events in Salisbury. However bleak the songs may be at times, there is a strong core of strength of will running through The Stranglers DNA; the survival of the individual against the odds. Also, they are bloody good songs too; melody-rich and written to last.
Then we look at the line-up, now with only two original members left. They probably shouldn’t be gaining popularity in these circumstances but that is to reckon without the rejuvenative powers of Baz Warne. If there is another frontman who has been the catalyst for such a surge in popularity of such an established band, I can’t think of them. He owns the stage, he works the crowd and is the perfect foil for JJ. He is also a brilliant guitarist and vocalist and this is never better illustrated than during the sublime Walk On By.
Readers of a certain age may remember the TV series Kung Fu, in which the hero, a young Shaolin Monk named Kwai Chang Caine, was not allowed to leave his monastery until he was able to snatch a pebble from his Master. Jim McCauley has surely been able to take the sticks from his master Jet’s hand as he has performed the near-impossible feat of filling the Great Man’s drum stool with aplomb. It’s well known that these are not conventional drum patterns and they are far from simple yet he carries it off perfectly; he is a metronomic marvel.
Dave Greenfield is, well, Dave Greenfield really; for well over forty years delivering those keyboard swirls that along with the bass is the hallmark of the sound. I’m struggling to look beyond the word ‘unique’ to describe him and his insouciant stage-presence, along with the No More Heroes party-piece, is a joy.
And so to JJ Burnell, delivering another bass master-class, all deliciously high in the sound mix. Tonight also sees the moment thousands have been waiting for, the debut of the first new material in six years, It’s very much in the late-period JJ style, with dark, punchy lyrics and yes, the “definitive” Stranglers sound.
So definitively, The Stranglers are the sum of many parts and the power of their live shows repeatedly underline the quality. The tour continues apace, we march on.
The Stranglers are on tour throughout March, see their Facebook page for details.
All words by Dave Jennings. More from Dave can be found by checking out his Louder Than War Author Archive. He is also on Twitter as @blackfoxwrexham