The Stranglers at the Hammersmith Apollo
When you’re a band like the Stranglers and you’ve been at it for four decades, you’re under a fair bit of pressure to do one thing in particular: play the songs that the fans want to hear. It’s something of a dicey task; especially if you’re still, as we suspect the Stranglers are, pretty keen on making new work and being if at all possible, relevant in today’s scene.
It’s somehow easy to forget, when four middle-aged men wearing entirely black outfits take stage from their respective corners, that the Stranglers were a significant force in the emergence of punk in the UK. Tonight’s set goes to show the band’s diversity and how its output earned the label “sophisticated punk”. Even when arranged over the same instruments, songs like Nice ‘n’ Sleazy and London Lady, which sound instantly punk – hard, fast, four-to-the-floor belters – sit in stark contrast to Golden Brown and Waltzinblack. From the perspective of their composition and musicianship we would suspect this to be regarded as adventurous, were they released by a band whose stock-in-trade is rock, even today.
The Stranglers handle all of their material with an equally proficient touch; one that seems hard won over 40 years of plying their trade. Their encore includes their famous cover of the Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night, which seems a particular favourite with the crowd. But what makes this show more than just a bunch of old blokes playing tribute to their younger selves for a sea of already-won fans, is that they don’t simply revel in former glories. Jean-Jacques Burnel, gives a particularly urgent and engaging performance from start to finish. From his leering vocals on Time to Die and the heel-toe, waltz-step he employs throughout the set, we get the distinct impression that he gives a toss, which is perhaps rare. Too rare.
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Watch the video for Peaches here: