The Stranglers at the Brixton Academy
The popular format of “classic-album-in-full” followed by a string of “greatest hits” can be divisive. The Stranglers’ celebration of 1978 album Black and White at The O2 Academy Brixton was greeted by a mixed crowd: those who understood the importance of the album – which helped push the mid-70s British punk scene in a more interesting direction – and those awaiting the hit parade. Having said that, they pieced together a raucous show with enough narrative to please the die-hards.
The early looseners were fierce ska stomper Nice & Sleazy and the volatile Hey!, but it wasn’t until the 60s garage punk of Toiler on the Sea that proceedings really got shifting. Dave Greenfield’s oscillating keys threatened to float off into the stratosphere, but were nailed firmly to the ground by the industrial post-punk rhythm section. The frontmen stalked the stage, hunched menacingly in entirely black attire like a pair of vaudevillian crooks, all leg-cocking, guitar-punching aggression.
It was original bassist and co-frontman Jean-Jaques Burnel who stole the show. Undiminished by time, his signature bass sounded like it was being run through an underground sewage system. Burnel’s dominance owes something to the absence of the snarling Hugh Cornwell, the original frontman. Current guitarist and lead-vocalist Baz Warne has sizable shoes to fill and never really seemed the focal point; his guitar was so low in the mix that at times it was virtually inaudible.
The first half did veer into the stagnant, but the sluice was opened for a concluding ride of hits. The white set turned technicolour for the likes of Get A Grip on Yourself and Walk on By, which saw Greenfield negotiating all three tiers of his keyboard rig for the mammoth solo. Princess of the Streets and Always The Sun provided big sing-alongs before the obvious final run of Peaches, Hanging Around and No More Heroes.
Regardless of The Stranglers’ current relevance, they clearly still mean a lot to a lot of people. They are widely appreciated as a punk band who often entertained the fringes but made huge waves in doing so. The waves are breaking gently, but surely on the shores of 2016 but there’s no taking away their work ethic in moulding a genre into something so uniquely theirs. Punk floats obtusely back and forth in the British music scene, but The Stranglers remain the real toilers on the sea.
Photos: Erol Birsen
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Watch the video for Nice & Sleazy here:
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