THE STRANGLERS + DR FEELGOOD – BRIGHTON DOME 26.03.19
As I get older I find I appreciate a bit of routine in my life. The Stranglers touring the UK every March is one routine I very much appreciate, especially since keyboard player Dave Greenfield hails from Brighton, and a show here is nearly always on the tour itinerary.
The Stranglers first came to prominence riding the new wave of the late 1970’s, more due to their maverick approach and uncompromising attitude then their style of music, which is not so easily pigeonholed. They enjoyed a spell of mainstream success in the 1980’s, before guitarist and singer Hugh Cornwell quit the band in 1990. Since then there have been a few changes of personnel, but they continue to tour and are still writing fresh material, with a new album mooted for later this year. I’ve been watching The Stranglers live for over forty years now, but there’s still a frisson of excitement whenever dates are announced. I can’t wait to hear the new songs.
Tonight’s support is from Dr Feelgood who, like the headliners, first emerged from the pub rock scene. They enjoyed considerable success in the 1970’s with their distinctive brand of high octane rhythm and blues. There are no original members left in the current line up, but this band are far from new to the game. Drummer Kevin Morris and bass player Phill Mitchell were recruited by late frontman Lee Brilleaux in 1983, as was guitarist Steve Walwyn in 1989. Current vocalist Robert Kane joined in 1999 and the band continues to tour all around the world. I can personally vouch for this, as the last time I saw them play was during a visit to Australia.
On stage tonight they sound punchy and tight, much as you’d expect from players of such experience. Steve Walwyn looks sharp in a white shirt and skinny red tie, head bobbing as he fires off rhythmic stabs of guitar. It would be hard to imagine any frontman matching the sleazy gravitas of the late great Lee Brilleaux, but Robert Kane brings a commendable amount of energy and enthusiasm to his vocal duties. Phill Mitchell broods menacingly in a black suit, his matching bass throbbing through an Ampeg stack, while Kevin Morris sends fills tumbling around the kit with the languid ease of a seasoned sticksman.
The set is understandably filled with crowd favourites from the glory years of the 1970’s. A pumping rendition of ‘Roxette’ particularly stands out. ‘Mad Man Blues’ is a welcome inclusion from the 80’s. It builds from a stripped bare beginning of guitar and rim tapping, and really takes off when Phill Mitchell nonchalantly strolls back on stage and the bass and drums kick in. There are some covers too, with some tasty slide guitar work on an Elmore James number ‘Dust My Broom’. All in all it’s an enjoyable and well executed romp through some cherished songs, and the set passes quickly and agreeably.
Dr Feelgood setlist:
‘Drives Me Wild’, ‘All Through The City’, ’Baby Jane’ (Otis Clay cover), ‘Dust My Broom’ (Elmore James cover), ‘Back In The Night’, ‘Roxette’, ‘Milk And Alcohol’, ‘Mad Man Blues’, ‘Going Back Home’, ‘Down At The Doctors’, ‘Give Me One More Shot’ (J B Lenoir cover)
More information: www.drfeelgood.org
There is a palpable buzz of anticipation as The Stranglers’ familiar recorded introduction ‘Waltzinblack’ starts up. The set design is always impressive on their tours, and this year’s is a distressed industrial look, with massive fans in between mock brick walls and backline fascias made to look like scorched and paint splattered wood. As you might expect, there are lighting arrays in amongst it all, that burst into life as the band hit the stage with the thunderous opener ‘Tank’.
As always, the band members are clad in black. To the left, long time bass guitarist Jean-Jacques Burnel prowls the stage, his Shuker bass growling between incredibly fast flurries of notes. To the right is guitarist Baz Warne, a Strangler since 2000, and sharing the lead vocals with bassist JJ since 2006. Baz was in the Sunderland band Toy Dolls in the early 80’s, and he has a charming Mackem accent and an engaging line in banter between songs. Brighton born Dave Greenfield stands behind a multi-tiered stack of keyboards, dispatching flurries of dancing notes or grand synth sweeps while casually swigging from a bottle of beer, his trademark stance. His dazzling lead breaks with that classic organ swell were central to the band’s sound in the early years. Behind the kit is newest member Jim Macaulay, formerly touring drummer and now a fully fledged Strangler since age and ill health have retired the band’s iconic founder Jet Black into a figurehead role. Jim retains the jazzy but measured drum style of his illustrious predecessor, and with his beard even looks like a more youthful version of Jet, which is probably no accident.
Most of the set is a whistle stop tour through the band’s extensive back catalogue, spanning four decades. It’s good to hear some less obvious album tracks: the soaring ‘Baroque Bordello’ from ‘The Raven’ , for example, and ‘Uptown’ from ‘Aural Sculpture’, with an interesting audio montage added.
The first of tonight’s new tracks, ‘Last Man On The Moon’, has a retro sci-fi vibe with swirling organ and twanging surf-style guitar. The lyrics give the impression of a dystopian future where mankind has trashed other worlds as well as this one. Later we get ‘Payday’, with a catchy chanted chorus, an angular solo and some interesting drum patterns supporting a lyric of wistful frustration. The final new number, hook laden ‘This Song Will Get Me Over You’ has a classic structure with a tuneful chorus and some satisfying drum thumping. Drummer Jim is also singing a lot of backing vocals, a useful addition to the sound, and this is especially apparent on the new material. On this first hearing, the next album sounds promising.
Of the remainder of the set, ‘Princess Of The Streets’ and ‘Ice Queen’ are particularly atmospheric, and 80’s hits ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Always The Sun’ are well received. From my point of view ‘The Raven’ is a majestic triumph. JJ’s voice is as good as I’ve ever heard, swathed in a vocal delay that sounds like it’s just crossed the North Sea.
The Stranglers have played for an hour-and-a half, the set is reaching a climax, and the encores are looming. I’ve really enjoyed the show, and the notes need to stop here. Hold my specs, I’m off to the mosh pit…
The Stranglers setlist:
‘Tank’, ‘I’ve Been Wild’, ‘Grip’, ‘Baroque Bordello’, ‘Bring On The Nubiles’, ‘Uptown’, ‘Relentless’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Time To Die’, ‘Last Man On The Moon’, ‘Duchess’, ‘Unbroken’, ‘Payday’, ‘Princess Of The Streets’, ‘Ice Queen’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Always The Sun’, ‘The Raven’, ‘This Song Will Get Me Over You’, ‘Something Better Change’, ‘5 Minutes’, ‘Hey! (Rise Of The Robots)’, ‘Down In The Sewer’, (encore) ‘Hanging Around’, ‘No More Heroes’
More information www.thestranglers.co.uk
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