It’s been a while.And while it has been a while.It’s been a good while.Which leads us here…
We headed for India in the form of Govindas on Soho Street for tiffin.
Refreshed and rehydrated we stretched our legs across Oxford Street taking refuge at number 100. Inside we found the familiar interior, unchanged and untouched by time, a permanent, impervious encapsulated monument to live music, like a woolly mammoth preserved in amber…
Just then, the London Sewage Company took the stage and warmed up the crowd with gusto.
Shortly thereafter, it was the turn of Department S who took up the gauntlet and masterfully performed their art to all and sundry.
Meanwhile, while we’d been whiling away etc Etc EiTC…Before we knew where we were, or probably after to be more accurate… It was Rutting time!
Ruts DC proceeded to entertain the gathered mass with skill and craft by the bucket load. A mixture of songs from the bands various incarnations all gratefully received with the same enthusiasm.
Kicking off with Vox Teardrop. The band were in good spirits (as ever) and delivered a tight set of finely crafted gems in their inimitable manner.
They made it seem like a stroll in the park, with a good mixture of light and dark.
The classic Ruts material sounded fab as both Segs and Leigh respectively did justice in honouring the legacy of Malcolm Owen and Paul Fox. And Ruffy did what Ruffy does with aplomb!
The Animal Now period got a look in tonight with the Superb Dangerous Minds, as relevant today as ever and we also had that period’s b-side in the form of Formula Eyes.
Mighty Soldier was mighty!
Peace Bomb was the Bomb!
And honourable mention to:
It was Cold, In A Rut, Babylon’s Burning, Backbiter, Sus, West One, Love in Vain, Jah War, Music Must Destroy, Psychic Attack etc Etc EiTC…
Before we knew it, we were back out in the West End night preparing for our next Indian adventure prior to descending to the depths and avoiding the chunky puddles on the night tube…
It’s time for my third and unfortunately final gig of the Classic Collection tour…
So it’s Midday Myself and Jane board the choo choo bound for the big city… check in to our dwellings for the next 3 nights just down the road from Her Maj’s place…. not been Victoria way for a good few years and how it’s changed, plenty of building work going on.
Short journey on the tube to Brixton, first visit to this part of town for either of us, photo opportunity at the Bowie mural then off to find The Trinity Arms, as a few of you may have realised we don’t like to stay out of the pub for too long. Quick bite to eat and before long The Family In Black start to arrive….
Owen, Jacquie and friend Pat quickly followed by one of my oldest mates from following The MIB Gary, who’s with Jan and Bernard after seeing Straighten Out, Stu and partner follow and before long it’s time to move on as we arrange to meet Audrey who has a spare ticket, Audrey’s in The local Spoons and it is absolutely rammed, also in attendance JB Alan, Dave, Isabella, Sandra, Jason, Ray, big Les and plenty others wearing our favourite logo. Sadly though not in attendance our friend from Belfast ..Mully.. which explains why you’re having to put up with my words… thanks for asking Matt (thank you very much Sir! EiTC).
Show time and seeing as Andy Miller had thoroughly recommended we should all make the effort to see Ruts dc Myself and Jane got there in plenty of time, I was lucky enough to see the line up in 79-80 with Malcolm on vox and bloody good they were but have not had the pleasure since and Mr Miller you were quite right…they were very good.
Waiting for The MIB I luckily bump into another old friend.. Duncan… only too briefly. It’s packed down the front so we stand quite near the back it looks like another large crowd… it is time…
That superb intro Waltzinblack and straight into the brilliant Raven, which must be in most fans top 5 all time Strangs songs… you all know the set list by now so I won’t go through it all… plenty of highlights Sometimes, Grip… then one I am not really that keen on 15 Steps but credit for something different… Never to look back which I love, a typical JJ track… followed by a quiet 10 mins or so with the hits which did draw big cheers from the crowd.
More highlights for me.. WWTW, great to hear Bear Cage.. great addition to the set… Genetix well done to Jim, for me it is the Jet track but Jim did a sterling Job… 5 Minutes obviously Sewer….. Baz says hope you’ve enjoyed the classic collection… don’t know what the fook it means but here’s the oldest… Go Buddy Go…. then all done with Heroes.
Cracking show from the boys again… never fail to deliver in my eyes.. so it’s back to The Spoons for a few more refreshments and chat with Julie and Darren and with Matt himself.. Thanks again for asking – over and out…
After traversing the fabric of space and time itself, it is with a joyous and uplifted spirit that I put pen to paper (in a virtual sense you understand, actually I’m clacking away on the keys at 40WPM 84% accuracy, thank heavens for the backspace key etc Etc EiTC…
After having subcontracted the main MiB review out to the Stranglers Original Derby62 – (see - Black Friday Part 3), there was a need to provide a separate account of proceedings leading up to the aforementioned…So here goes…
A plasma storm in the time stream forced me to put down in Brixton south London in the year of 2017. Previous commitments meant there was no chance of making it early enough for Straighten Out at the Hope & Anchor (i.e. Black Friday Part 1). So we nipped into the Beehive where we rendezvoused with Sib and Son, Willy, Keith and Dreadinblack. The place was rammed to the rafters with friends and family in black.
An incoming communique from Karl told us he was in the priority queue, sensibly getting in early to setup a vantage point for the evenings events. Without further ado we ventured forth to join him in the good company of Greg and Pidge a quick hello with Author John Dewhirst (who reported on Lincoln, the first night of the tour for this very blog) among others, then we settled near the front by the lovely Andrea longhair.
And before you could say “somethingverylongwindedifitsleftuptomeetcEtcEiTC!” Boom! Ruts DC took the stage.
After a quick hello to the packed auditorium they kicked off the set. In titular deference to the tour of which they are partaking, we were treated to a set of classic Ruts and a healthy smattering of Ruts DC (modern classics)!
The capacity crowd were largely in early to see them too and they responded with gusto. There followed a kind of symbiosis as the crowd and band seemed to feed off each other becoming something more than just entertainers and audience – in some magical Gestalt kind of way!
Once more as per Guildford there was barely room to pack a rizla in the 45 minute slot. However, Segs and Ruffy still managed to have a laugh and a joke with the audience while Leigh was lapping it up especially when he was teasing us on the intro to the magnificent Staring At The Rude Boys. Wonderful!
The musical interlude of In A Rut went in a definite Dr Feelgood kind of direction, perhaps a nod to the company they were keeping the night before in Southend (i.e. Wilko).
All too soon it was all over and we headed off out…
Oh no we didn’t, we stayed put in anticipation of the MiB but that will be dealt with in Black Friday Part 3.
We intercepted, captured and interpreted this incoming transmission as it was broadcast across space and time...
There was talk of Lew and talk from Lou but no time was spent in either Lieu or the Loo etc Etc EiTC...
Presented here for the first time in full...
Sugar tongs primed, refractors tweaked and hair straighteners only just remembered, we’re off to the seaside that is Southend.
A relatively painless manoeuvre negotiating the M25 and its’ allies and we’re at the hotel with the sugar tongs reclining on the window sill gazing out to far horizons, well, the Isle of Sheppy at least…
All spruced up and a wander past the Cliffs Pavilion in the glorious sunset for a quick fish and chip tea and a little libation before heading back for the main event – The Stranglers with Ruts DC supporting.
The Ruts are on as we go in and we’re soon into the rhythm with Jah Wars which I’m reliably informed is all about jam making in the WI, everyday’s a school day eh!? (wf)
In no particular order we also hear In A Rut, Babylon’s Burning and the superb Music Must destroy amongst others (soz, memory’s not what it was and I have got ManFlu!), a perfect set for getting us ready for what’s to come.
The lights dim and Waltzinblack sets off the tingle in me as it does every time I hear it and they’re on! Straight into The Raven and I’m laughing and crying with the sheer joy of just being there and sharing it with like-minded folk.
The band look well and seem to be enjoying this tour so much, there’s something there that has been missing for a few tours, the mojo is in great working order.
A blistering set including one of my all time faves Bear Cage – oh wow, hearing that live is something else! Always great to hear Genetix, liking Freedom a lot this time round too and couldn’t resist providing the missing trumpet backing on Was It You (I always liked that bit of brass).And to really knock the orgasmatron off the scale, on comes Lew Lewis for the encore and belts out Old Codger on his trusty blues harp! Innit!?
All too soon it’s time for NMH and the bright lights of the Pavilion suggest it’s time to gather and go.
Dazed, but certainly not confused, until next time…
The thick fog gave way to a smoky haze which had been a permanent feature since the advent of steam power and the industrial revolution. Dusty street urchins could be seen gathered sheltering in shop doorways huddling together in a vain attempt to escape the clutches of the icy cold breath of the last remnants of Winter.One of these forsaken children had strayed from the group and was to be found with his nose pressed to the window of a local dining establishment, drooling at the fine nourishment on the other side of the glass. It appeared to be simultaneously so close yet so far out of reach…He sighed and thought to himself “Will I ever get to see The Stranglers and Ruts DC on the Classic Collection Tour?”But hope was just around the corner…Shards of light had begun to pierce the dark of Winter’s gloom, accompanied by shoots of green and trees in bloom. The realisation dawned of the auspiciousness of this moment – the Vernal Equinox - when the subsolar point appears to leave the southern hemisphere and cross the celestial equator. The beginning of Spring. And whether it is due to the unique gravitational pull, which is believed to occur at this time of year, or other factors, the increase in available light brings with it hope…The air was crackling with potential…It could be seen, heard, smelt, touched, tasted…“Tonight” he thought “Tonight!”...
Blimey we’re in the third week of March! So… Well, it’s the annual Stranglers Tour innit! So… Well, things are so hectic – Guildford presents the 1st opportunity for EiTC… Go on… And the Ruts DC are supporting this year… Really! Yes! Well what you waiting for? Skates on!…
The mythical mystical city of Guildford beckoned us in, luring, enticing with sensual stimuli – sights, sounds, smells…
…here I chanced upon one of the city’s celebrated daughters Lil who acted as our Sherpa this evening as we once more descended the drunken staircase into the bowels of Glive, whereupon the following phenomena were encountered…
…whoah, ‘old yer ‘orses!
…why of course before descending the staircase we rendezvoused with SiB and Son, stopping off for a quick hello and how do with Messrs Miller and Hegarty and Owen and Jacq among others – there was also a brief hello with The Members JC Carroll…
…Okay as you were!
Review – Ruts DC
… At 7.45pm prompt Ruts DC took the stage and proceeded to stun us with a set rammed to the brim with Ruttishly brilliant nuggets new and old.
There was barely time to draw breath between numbers as they cranked out a superb upbeat uplifting set with apparent ease barely breaking a sweat.
Guitarist Leigh Heggarty was on fire tonight as he ascended from being merely in the zone to a whole new previously undefined level of six string skilfulness while providing some excellent BVs!
Frontman/Bassist Segs was clearly cooler than an extremely cool thing as he quipped with the crowd and his bandmates and demonstrated unrivalled skill in his ability to simultaneously lay down the (serious) bass and sing.
Master Skins-man Dave Ruffy – a joy to watch perform – with the outward grace of a swan gliding across a calm pond – the onlooker unaware of the unseen effort occurring just below the surface – creating a kind of disparity between what you are seeing and what you are hearing. Peerless, effortless (apparently) and brilliant!
That’s the three constituent parts – enough on their own – but add the Aristotelian metaphysical summing of the whole and the resultant greatness is nothing less than magic!
Not a single second of their 45 minutes was wasted – absolutely superb! The classic Ruts tracks were well represented as was the new album Music Must Destroy. Highlight for EiTC was the mightiest ever rendition of Mighty Soldier (but also in fact just being there for a great set).
The sound tonight was magnificent.
And kudos and much gratitude to The Stranglers for having the balls to put such a fantastic support act on the bill!
Well how can you follow that?
Well there’s only one way to follow that…
Review – The Stranglers.
Your prescription is ready.
Just what the Doctor ordered…
Cue Waltzinblack and enter stage left and right The Stranglers.
The Raven started off proceedings sounding tight and right with all elements crystal clear and perfectly synchronized.
The nice thing about catching them this far into the tour (third week), is just how tight the band are. The early bugs and sound problems have largely been ironed out and this is the best sound I’ve witnessed at Glive. The vocals and BVs sounded great tonight!
The band were clearly enjoying the themselves and this enjoyment naturally rubs off on the crowd.
Tonight JJ was in his element as he interacted with crowd while playing, mouthing suggestive comments to the more nubile parts of the audience or mouthing in my general direction how good Jim is, as I was gawping at him (or so it was perceived at the time). All the while never dropping a note. During Golden Brown he was raising a chuckle with his affected almost balletic dancing. At one point, someone held up their young son near the front to which JJ quickly responded, “he’s not mine!” A broad grin, excellent vocals, killer bass lines and more than a sprinkling of menace – in his element!
Meanwhile, his partner in crime Baz was on fine form serving up the classics alongside the more recent with a firm hand, a cheeky grin and a twinkle in his eye, all with the requisite good pinch of menace. On the classic Mk1 songs, while always faithful to the original, he’s never afraid to imprint some of his own personality into the mix as well and that works brilliantly. On Strange Little Girl for example, his (and the bands) delivery is great – Baz’s voice shines on this tonight while the guitar work on the solo with the flange type effect is fitting and authentic.
Dave delivers! Grinning like the lovable demonic keyboard wizard that he is. A joy to behold with the eyes and the ears. The keys are clearer to these ears than they’ve been for some while, particularly the organ sounds. The solo of Walk on By was well and truly nailed! A transcendental experience. Brilliant vocal delivery on Genetix and on BV duties. Dave delivers!
Jim! JJ is right! We’ve heard about the DVD mentoring from the live-retired drum master and founding father Jet Black… Which is fab – they’re big shoes to fill… Jim fills them exceptionally well, pouring every ounce of his being into the performance, including BVs. Now he’s tackling Genetix too. In terms of shed building this guys got it nailed. I was transfixed during 5 minutes, by the power and energy of Jim’s playing, superb! For sheer presence alone he registers a 9 on the Richter scale of menace.
The set tonight (and on the tour) is great and really does seem to strike a balance between what they feel dutybound to play (GB, ATS, Peaches, NMH) and what they want to play or what they throw in as a surprise.
The MiB are firing on all cylinders, interacting with each other and the crowd and playing out of their skins. At one point Baz teases the punters up on the balcony with his (surprisingly good) mock Surrey genteel accent! We are also treated to the ‘Get on with it!’ routine where they down tools and have a beer as an indignant reaction to an impatient punter, which makes for a good bit of theatrical comedy. I can understand some people complaining about this if they’ve been to several gigs on the tour but what the heck it’s all good humoured, a bit of light hearted fun.
Highlights too numerous to mention so I’ll try to narrow it down; Bear Cage – Superb! (only ever saw this live in 1980 with Ian Dury on vocal duty IIRC…), 5 Minutes – off the scale! Down in The Sewer – menacing magnificence! Go Buddy Go – unsurpassed! Who Wants The World – Trump/Putin! I could continue but won’t as hopefully by now you get the picture…
Finally at zero hour a brief pause in proceedings as Baz takes the time to dedicate No More Heroes to the recently deceased local fan Anton De Croft, touching!
While Chuck Berry replaces Sancho Panza…
A top night!
If you’ve not done so, make sure you catch one of the remaining dates on this tour, you will not be disappointed!
For me tonight the whole concert experience is akin to having one’s soul re-aligned. Sublime!
Sugar Tongs aside, EiTC is yet to make it to the classic collection tour!!!
Birmingham is always a blast but YT will have to wait...
Fortunately Gizzard was there and brings us this account of the evening...
15 STEPS TO BIRMINGHAM
Here we are all again, March is upon us and it’s the annual Stranglers tour of the UK, still no news of a new album(it’s in the pipeline we hear…?) The tour is called ‘The Classic Collection’, does this mean a new range of clothing or the ‘greatest hits’? We are promised ‘new old’ tracks in pre tour interviews so it looks promising and also a set change every night…
My interest in seeing the band live has waned over the last 3 or so years, they will always be my favourite band without question and in 158 gigs I have only come away really disappointed once(AITUK Birmingham 2005), from a personal point of view I think seeing them so many times has took the edge off, plus the same ‘hits’ and the lack of new material hasn’t helped, so now each tour 2 or 3 gigs max instead of previously 7 or 8.
I have never been one for not wanting to see the set list before I go to a gig, so after the first gig I want to know, I had seen what was being played and to be honest it didn’t really ‘excite’ me, the only real standouts were ‘Bear Cage’ and ‘15 Steps’ and that was because I had never seen them performed live. There were other songs I was pleased to see back but there were also a few that I have heard/seen played to death but hey you can’t please everyone…..
So I leave home around late afternoon in my new 17 plate Black automobile, plenty of CD’s for the journey, starting with a live recording of Toronto 1980, hells fire it must have been good to see them then!
And so to Birmingham, always liked seeing the band there as it’s always a very healthy and appreciative crowd and this time was no exception, before the actual gig there was a fine meet up of black clad people old and new in the nearby Railway pub, always good to meet up with old faces and new.
And onto the gig, wanted to get in early to check out the Ruts DC, have never seen them before but have their albums and have heard good reports so was keen to check them out, by the time they came on at around 7.45 there was a very healthy crowd and they didn’t disappoint, the set was a mixture of old tracks and new ones from their very fine album ‘Music Must Destroy’, highlights for me being the title track and of course the oldies ‘Jah War’, Staring At The Rude Boys’ and ‘Babylons Burning’.
And so to the main event, the place was now rammed and it was very hot, the lights go down and the familiar WIB comes out of the PA and we are off, have to say the new stage set up of the bricks doesn’t do anything for me, a plain black background with the white or red logo would suffice.
JJ looks in fine form(hope I look that good at 65), he actually seems to look younger each tour, the sound is spot on and the hits are rattled through, highlights were for me are ‘Never To Look Back’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘WWTW’ and of course ‘Sewer’, ‘Bear cage’ was very good but I thought it might be better vocal wise.
Both Baz and Dave are on fine form but the keyboards in certain songs don’t sound right, they sound very ‘plonky(is that even a word..?) and he even partly misses singing one of the lines of ‘Genetix’.
Jim does a fine job on the drums but to me it doesn’t look right without the mighty presence of JB and his drum kit, I know that is not going to change but that’s my opinion and in no way takes away the fact that Jim does a very good job and is a fine drummer.On a personal note whilst I was looking forward to seeing the band again I was not as excited as I have been in previous years, as noted above live interest has slightly diminished, that said I really enjoyed the gig, the band are playing as tight as ever and the future however long that may be looks just good for them, although I want to hear new material, I may be in the minority here as the average Stranglers gig goers will only want to hear the old material but not me, it’s been a long time since ‘Giants’ and a new album is well overdue, I would also like to hear some different ‘older’ tracks and more stuff post Hugh, this though has been and will continue to be debated for as long as the band continue and probably further.
To sum up another fine live performance in the company of good people, now FFS get that new material out!!
We managed to coax the sugar tongs back to life...And they were ticking over nicely...Which was just as well as the following message nearly caused an overheat malfunction in the Pigeon to English translation matrix...
The Stranglers Review reading
It’s traditional now that the Stranglers go on tour in March. This year’s March tour consists of 19 gigs. And an added bonus support of the superb Ruts DC, who are promoting their new album “Music Must Destroy” 6 tickets booked for me. Taking in a couple of new cities; Newcastle and Leeds. But my first gig was the Reading Hexagon. A venue I first went to last year on the “Black and White” tour. I thought last year was so good, I decided to go again!
Arriving in Reading I met my friend Adam Cooper at the station. We checked into the IBIS hotel, where we were staying with our friend Alex Owen. At the lobby I met fellow forum member Greatkudu.
After checking in we had a walk to the venue to try meeting the band around sound check time. The walk to the venue gave us time to talk on all things Stranglers. We arrived at the venue at 4pm as we thought that’s what time the band would come out. At the entrance were several fans, I saw Andy Miller, so we had a talk with him. After a lengthy chat, the band came out of sound check at 5pm. Baz and Dave quickly shot off into the awaiting car. However, JJ stopped and talked to fans. It was at that point I asked JJ if I could have a photo with him. JJ said “Well everyone else is”. So I got another photo with JJ. My first was in 2005 at his “Songs and Stories” tour in Salford. Then me and Adam headed off for a Thai curry. We arrived at the venue in time for Ruts DC. It was great to bump into friends Sam Holiday, Owen, Andy and Karen.
Ruts DC took the stage at 7.45 and Ruffy the Drummer said they had not played in Reading for 37 years. And that they would be playing songs from their new album “Music Must Destroy” which is good because I own it (and most excellent it is too – EiTC).
They started off with “Vox teardrop” from the new album. Which Captain Sensible plays on. I like “Music Must Destroy” the song and they play it. Segs the bass player and singer says it’s because we’re still so very angry. He shouts “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” at the start. From RATM. I really like the chorus “We are not your property”. They mix new songs with old songs. So, they play reggae dub song “Mighty Solider”, and their old single “Shine on Me”. Back to the new album they play “Kill the pain”. Obviously most of the crowd are waiting for the popular songs “Staring at the rude boys”, “In a rut” and “Babylon’s Burning”. But it is “Psychic Attack”. Which I am waiting for. They go off to a good applause
Time for The Stranglers at Tonight’s Sold out gig at the Hexagon. These days it is now impossible to not know the set with social media websites. I think I waited a day before I caved in. With the bands back catalogue from 1977 to 1982 supposedly being re-released, it would likely be a set mainly consisting of songs from that time period. Whilst there are many from that time period I would like to see Dropped. I would like to say “Always the Sun”, “5 minutes” and Walk on by” (sacrilege etc Etc EiTC!) for one (that’s three! EiTC). But these are must play songs. Baz has said in interviews there are several folders. “The must play folder”, “band request” folders and “Self indulgent” folders. Whilst he gave away the band would be playing “Dagenham Dave”, and an unplayed song from “Giants”. I guessed at “15 Steps”. I tried to keep the rest of set a Surprise (That was Ruts DC Surely! EiTC…).
9pm. “Waltzinblack” airs from the PA. Like a bus timetable that is timed to Greenwich mean time. Bang on!. “The Raven” starts off. My favourite all time song. So it doesn’t get much better for me already. “Was it you”? next, it looks like Dave has new Keyboards and “Grip”follows. Jim has a very nice looking new drum kit. It looks like a “linpig” (Ludwig??? EiTC) kit. Up next “Sometimes”. I have heard this a fair few times now but never get bored of it. It is clear the band are getting on as good as ever. “Never to look back” is up next, one of my favourites from “10”.
Now it’s time for the first wave of hits. “Strange little Girl” makes a nice return to the set. The first song the band ever wrote this is the classic collection, “Always the Sun” to which Baz and JJ seem to be having banter onstage by pulling faces at each other. We are well and truly in the hit parade now as “Golden Brown’ is up next.
A mad lighting effects. I am thinking to myself at this point Ok it’s a greatest hits set!
…but a keyboard run started off…
“No” I thought to myself it can’t be!!!
A heavy bass line followed and…
I can’t believe it!
I have been waiting years and years to see this…
I just watch in Amazement.
Baz playing a stunning Gibson SG.
And his voice on this is very very good.
He sounds as mean as Hugh!. With “GMBH” and Gee I’m Living in a Bear Cage”.
I was totally surprised by this and this is worth the ticket fee alone!!!
“Genetix” next which is as good as ever (first time with Jim on Drums! EiTC). Only JJ seemed to start his bass solo too early. “Walk on By” which replaces “Midnight Summer Dream”. Which I am a tad disappointed about. Now time for the “Giants” set “Freedom is insane”, and then Baz starts a guitar line to “15 Steps” which is a really interesting version. I really like this song on “Giants” so I am glad they are playing it.
“Dagenham Dave” up next. One thing I notice the band are playing superbly. “5 Minutes” and then “Peaches”, “Nice N Sleazy”, then another great Surprise “Down in the Sewer”. Always a joy to hear this song another one of my favourites I never tire of hearing it live. It’s a song of four individual parts climaxing in the “Rats Rally” finale. The band go off to a very loud applause and come back for a shortened encore tonight of “Go Buddy Go” and “No More heroes”. I sat here typing this review out as we are in a car with Mark Owen at the helm with me Alex and Mrs Owen heading in the direction of Newcastle for my 2nd part of the tour … Marching on in Black
The Sugar Tongs have been offline due to a malfunctioning T-unit and what with cloning technology being what it is at the moment (etc Etc EiTC), Elvis had to resign himself to the fact that in this (or that) instance he wasn’t (currently isn't) able to be in two places at one moment.
Fortunately help was on hand...
Cue John Dewhirst…
Whether it is Seasonal affected disorder (SAD) or age, the passing of winter and the coming of spring is always a welcome occurrence. March can be hit and miss in terms of the weather but it is a month that has assumed a particular significance, heralding the start of the touring season for the Men in Black that can be relied upon to brighten the mood.
I have seen The Stranglers on most tours since 1979 but have no hesitation in saying that those of the last five years or so have been the best for sheer all-round enjoyment. I am not alone in confessing that there was a phase in an earlier decade when I attended gigs more out of a sense of duty or habit than a compelling case of having to be there. But how things have changed! At the start of the decade I had a deep-rooted fear that a forthcoming tour was going to be the last but The Stranglers remain the band which continues to surprise and defy.
The last forty years bear testament to the band’s ability to reinvent itself with different styles of music. This decade however has been a statement of vitality almost akin to a rebirth, sufficient to persuade myself and others to commit significant chunks of time to follow the band across the UK on its annual March tour.
This year The Stranglers began their 19 date schedule in Lincoln on 7th March and I was fortunate to be there. It was the first time that I had visited the city and walked the streets having only previously been to Sincil Bank to watch the football. (Baz Warne alluded to the recent FA Cup exploits of Lincoln City and I share his sentiments of goodwill towards the club in its forthcoming Quarter-Final tie at Arsenal. As a supporter of Bradford City and someone at the Valley Parade fire in 1985, I share a certain affinity with the Imps.)
Although based in Bradford, I work across the UK and on this occasion had the relative convenience of travelling from Sheffield, only 50 miles distant. I arrived in Lincoln in the early afternoon and enjoyed a few hours wandering around the city before getting some food and heading off to the venue. It was a great day with spring sunshine and a nice place to visit. There is also the friendliness of the people in black from diverse backgrounds but with one thing in common.
What I have discovered is that when you attend a Stranglers gig you can be assured of a decent, charismatic venue (Fibbers at York included) and in that regard, the Engine Shed in Lincoln rates highly as one of the best. As far as sound systems go, neither was the support band plagued by the sort of issues that occurred in nearby Skegness last October.
It is very easy to take for granted all the incidental stuff that makes for an enjoyable experience seeing The Stranglers but the common theme is that you get good, solid entertainment. The Ruts DC were no exception to this and once more we have another hard working, enthusiastic band in support.
The atmosphere at the Lincoln gig was in many ways characteristic of what Stranglers concerts have become and the enjoyment of the evening is evident not only on the faces of those in the audience but on stage too – as well as the road crew. Everyone has fun. It is quite a unique bond between all concerned and what is so refreshing is just how down to earth it all is. All quite matter of fact and with no pretentiousness.
There is also the relaxed manner in which the band performs consistently to a high standard. Yet whilst it could be claimed that this comes from the familiarity of the band members it overlooks the professionalism of those concerned. For all the laid back delivery there is a wonderful team ethic and attention to detail that few of us have the privilege to witness in our day jobs. Also noteworthy is that this discipline is maintained during the entirety of a tour, a stamina challenging routine of at least four concerts per week that would test the energy levels of performers thirty years younger.
In terms of the music, Ruts DC gave a good performance that featured songs including ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Babylon’s Burning’. Crucially these were musicians who wanted to be there and were enjoying the occasion as much as the regular Stranglers fans.
The back catalogue of The Stranglers is so extensive as to make a mockery of any description of the set list being one of classics. There was probably an ironic grain of truth in the admission by Baz that it is in fact what the band wanted to play. The choice of songs showcases a real balance of musical talents and underlines the credentials of Jim and Baz alongside J-J and Dave – it is difficult to believe that the former pair are relative newcomers to the line-up.
The Stranglers never fail to be innovative and the rendition of ‘Bear Cage’ deserves special mention – a version that is destined to be a new live favourite. So too the contribution of Dave’s swirling organ that was particularly noticeable on the night. A new song – ’15 Steps’ – was given its (live) debut and was well received (15 Steps is the closing track on Giantseitc). Other favourites included the opener, ‘The Raven’ as well as old favs ‘Dagenham Dave’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘Buddy’ and ‘Down in the Sewer’. If this was the choice of tracks for an album it would be nothing less than balanced – a classic collection indeed.
On the basis of the first gig we have a great month ahead and much to look forward to. I remain in awe and have nothing but praise for the band – The Stranglers surely offer the benchmark for what a good gig is all about. Whilst there have been many videos of live performances, the one that is missing is a film about the hard work that goes into making these tours such a success and allowing us to celebrate the coming of spring!
See you next in Glasgow…
Words: John Dewhirst
John was co-founder of the longest surviving football fanzine The City Gent and has written a number of books about the history of both rugby and soccer in his home city, Bradford: https://johndewhirst.wordpress.com/@jpdewhirst
He is the proud owner of a Triumph Bonneville T120 – black, of course.
Once again dispensing with waffle…(For the most part etc Etc EiTC)And getting down to business…Well that’s why you’re here?...
Then, before I knew it, I found myself in Camden and it was only Six o’clock!
In a hole in the ground I encountered a gathering who, like me, were here to hear the magnificent Ruts DC.
An early start to tonight’s gig due to the 10pm curfew for live music (Great! Cocoa and bed before the pumpkin hour methinks).
After partaking of a drink in the company of Mr and Mrs Rockula, Mrs Bloggs led me down further in to the depths of the underworld where we discovered Mr Bloggs and Straightenout (with his shirt – more on that later…) among numerous others, enjoying the delights of Department S. And what delights they were. A new experience for me seeing this band (and only really being aware of ‘that’ song), I was duly impressed.
A foundation of solid drumming and truly inspirational bass playing, layered with creative and engaging guitar, topped off with ultra-cool vocal stylings and performance. And they played ‘that’ song! And it was superb! And the sound was also superb in here tonight. Reckon I’ll be seeing this lot again.
A short break. Then before we knew it – Ruts DC took the stage and had us eating out of their palms as they delivered a solid set of Rutty, Ruttish afore alluded to magnificence, they may also have been just a little bit more sparkly than normal…
Kicking off with West One, the crowd were pleased and rightly so. Segs informed us that we may not know quite a bit of the set tonight as they kicked into the rocker Vox Teardrop and we just lapped it up.
The awesome Mighty Soldier, SUS, No Time To Kill and It Was Cold warmed the cockles before the next batch of new songs.
The catchy Brian Jones tribute Tears on Fire next. Then guest guitarist Dave joined the band which was a nice surprise and that’s exactly what they played Surprise. Leigh donned the Les Paul Jr for some nice jangliness on Soft City Lights before going back to the Standard for the excellent Peace Bomb. Second Hand Child next and great to hear how established this has become. Then new single Music Must Destroy and the crowd had clearly been doing their homework as they sang and danced along.
Back to the three piece format for the simply brilliant Love in Vain. More brilliance in the shape of Jah War. The suberb Psychic Attack headed up a couple of classics in the shape of Staring at The Rude Boys and Babylon’s Burning.
Then they were gone…
But not for long…
Back on with Dave on Acoustic for the atmospheric Golden Boy. Then electric for (the electric) Kill The Pain.
Three pieces again for a sizzling Something That I Said, before a final four piece rendition of the inimitable In A Rut! Stunning!
The sound was superb tonight with clarity between all elements… You would never have guessed there had been any technical problems, which indeed there had been as the midi backing had fallen over. Not that it really mattered as the human talent was so rich.
Almost tempted to say this was an ‘I was there!’ occasion… Which while true, Ruts gigs always are!
Great sound for a great band with great support in a great venue and other greatness etc Etc EiTC…
And while we’re on the subject of greatness: Check out the new album. It’s brilliant and Punky yet different as The Ruts/Ruts DC ever were. It’s instant and a grower at the same time. INFECTIOUS!!! With elements of dub and pop and general creative/experimental awesomeness: Not being a gambler even I’d wager that you won’t be disappointed.
Words: Matthew Elvis Brown.
Colour Images: Mrs Bloggs/Lou Smith. Monochrome Images: Andy Miller/Straightenout. Moving Images: Andy Miller/Straightenout. That Shirt Images: Courtesy of Andy’s Camera and The Mystery Photographer.
Having primed the Sugar Tongs for Oxford, Diddie in Black and Blue (DiBaB) and yours truly (EiTC) set off to Way Out West departing as we were from The South…
The South of What Sir?
The South of London…
Apologies to Mr Broad but somehow along the way we ended up having fun in South West Six…
The year was 1937 and Laurel and Hardy were playing at the Vue cinema in Fulham Broadway. Where (apres subtle yogic activity of an inverted nature…) we enjoyed the delightful pairing of Way Out West and Towed in a Hole on the Silver Screen. Much Mirth, Merriment and Tittering followed (Guaranteed, naturally!) setting up a kind of theme for the day…
After having caught up with Stan and Ollie we set the controls for the Car Park known as the A40 and gently rolled in the general direction of Oxford…
Getting near we ventured to turn on The Sat Nav which said left a bit, left a bit more and fire…
Duly arrived we ventured forth in search of nourishment, stopping off en route for a quick hello and how do with a Rut and a UK Fed, we eventually found ourselves sampling the contemporary Indian Cuisine at the delightful Malikas. Fed and watered to a most satisfactory standard we ventured back towards The Bullingdon, the venue for tonight’s gig. Firstly stopping off at the café bar section, before heading in to the venue proper to catch the show, where we caught up with none other than Shazzer and Mr T…
Up first the UK Feds did their stuff ever more convincingly, appearing at ease and in control throughout. The crowd showed them appreciation as they cranked out the Punkish/Rocky/Ska-ish tones of their set, which came across really well, both sonically and visually in this cool venue. Before we knew it, it was all over and they were giving the audience and Ruts DC their sincere appreciation and gratitude, a nice touch (and the first underlining of the end of tour feeling in the air for tonight’s gig).
In a thrice, it was time for the main event as Ruts DC took to the stage and kicked off with Surprise. Having heard this toward the beginning of the tour in Guildford, then again in London, there was a familiarity about it now. At the same time there was also a sense of progression as it sounded and felt somewhat tighter and more polished (as Mr Miller alluded to in his South Coast Special – can’t wait for the new album).
The awesome Mighty Soldier next as the set began to follow a similar pattern from previous gigs in the tour. (The sound was spot on in The Bullingdon tonight, a venue which seemed to have something of the old Marquee in Wardour St about it in a good way, leading DiBaB to reminisce about seeing them there in 78/79 etc Etc EiTC…)
The end of tour feeling came in to its own now with the Ruffy and Segs stand-up double act ensuring there was a good level of humorous between song shenanigans and goings on, which added nicely to the already comedic feel of the day started in London 78 years previously!
The set began to take a few twists and turns as It Was Cold was omitted to reappear later in the set. We were treated to a superb Different View, always a welcome addition. Dangerous Minds was on another level tonight with its slower tempo adding to the atmosphere of the song while Leigh’s guitar work excelled. On which note Leigh seemed to have thoroughly bedded in his new rig since its first outing in London two weeks ago, as the sound was spot on and he played out of his skin.
The largely friendly crowd danced and grooved for most of the set, only at one point did they get a bit too lively (leaving one poor soul wounded) and Ruffy had stern words with them to rein them in, backed up in full by Segs, which thankfully did the trick!
The subtle reggae groove of Love in Vain was easily one of the (many) highlights of the evening with its seamless segue into Police and Thieves, pure class!
Once again a fine mix of Ruts/Ruts DC classics in with the recent and the brand new. (On which note, as previously stated re. Surprise – newer numbers Second Hand Child and Psychic Attack, really are shaping up well and fitting glove like alongside and amongst the older/established material!)
Encore time saw the band remaining on stage while they joked about their age and not being bothered with going off and coming back on again…
Then there were Five or maybe there were six… As Jon and Mikey from the UK Feds bolstered their numbers for a proper treatment of In A Rut and they were joined by an inflatable dinosaur.
A couple more numbers rounded out the encore finishing the night with a sterling Society, which may have seen DiBaB and EiTC dancing with the aforementioned dinosaur.
First class entertainment from a first class band who just seem to go from strength to strength…
And a couple of welcome glasses followed at the bar chatting with Lewis and Sara.
Top Band, Top Night, Top Venue etc Etc EiTC…
UK Feds, UK Feds/Ruts DC and First 3 Ruts DC Photos: Sharon Williams.