What was once here is now past…
What was once before us is now here…
What was once past has now come around again Full circle…
But the circle is not complete…
It is more spiral-like in its oscillations; ever spinning inward to smaller and smaller dimensions, while ever spinning outwards expanding to new horizons, both of these aspects simultaneously taking us on a journey to the now, the known and the unknown…
Infinite! Time rolls out in all directions; before us, after us, within us and without us…
And some are blessed with the ability to hear in colour…
It is said that those Synesthetes present to hear Saturday 8th March 2014 were unanimous in their reports of hearing only in Black…
Thus the events that unfolded on that day were to become known as Black Saturday or Saturday in Black, if you will!
There is much to report and little time in which to do so, unless of course one has access to a means of overcoming time itself (which as you may be aware is not without its own set of problems!). Since the advent of time travel this problem has presented itself. Although we can be present at any moment in time there is but a finite amount of seconds, minutes and hours in a lifetime with which to do it. So, one can never be present at every moment in time due to these finite limitations of the human lifespan. Having broken the confines of time, our greatest minds are now concentrated on the breadth of our own mortality within it. But, even with the ability to visit the future, the elixir of eternal youth still eludes us. Blessed are those that do not dwell in the past nor fear for the future but grasp the now for all it is worth! Thus having used an abundance of time with this last paragraph, I will endeavour to get on with it!
Part 1. The Black Hole of Upper Street.
Straighten Out Live at The Hope & Anchor Islington – Sat 8th March.
Inspired by the fact that spring was upon us, much to everyone’s relief after the damp murk of winter, (The Sunshine brought with it new hope, there’s always the sun, Always!) they descended into the darkness once more to be at one with the Blackness…
A black clad clan gathered from near and far to bear witness to a ceremonial performance by the finest tribute to the founding fathers of the cult of the Men in Black. This tribute known as Straighten Out marked the beginning of the day’s festivities in Black, in this, the Ruby Anniversary year of the said fathers’ foundation.
Down into the Black Hole of Upper Street, what better location to be at than The Hope and Anchor with its historical significance in the story of The Stranglers? Magic! This Cellar was buzzing with anticipation as the Black strains of Waltzinblack heralded the arrival of Straighten Out.
Shut Up! …
…started the proceedings, then IFLAW, followed by Ugly, the family were transfixed, the Synesthetes heard only black. Back to matters temporal, the band asked if anyone here was present in another (earlier) time… One or two replied in the affirmative including one of the legendary Finchley Boys.
If you’d squinted and opened your ears you’d have thought that you’d been transported back to that time of the late 1970’s 1976/7 or thereabouts… In fact the appearance of one Burn e77 leads one to believe that some temporal shenanigans may have been afoot! And we were in fact there then!
And the band played on through a mighty set list of MK1 favourites, I was chuffed to not only hear PITBS but also the excellent Dead Ringer, although in all fairness it was all great! The authenticity of this band really cannot be underplayed! Straighten out deliver the finest renditions of MK1 Stranglers this side of 1981. In fact the only people capable of doing a better job would be The MiB themselves.
We got a full set of back to back classics, replete with Growling P Bass, Jagged Telecaster, Swirling Mind-blowing Keyboards and Pounding Percussive excellence!
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house… No, seriously! It was so hot in there that the sweat was dripping off their brows…
Then they hit a hitch… Keyboardist Mick’s hand had seized up with a crippling cramp just as they were going into No More Heroes… Disaster!… Fortunately a lovely nurse was available to tend to the wounded Maestro*.
Meanwhile the band appealed to any erstwhile keyboardists in the audience. To everyone’s amazement and delight some plucky chap spoke up and said “I’ll do it!” And that’s exactly what he did – Cool as a cucumber, said audience member got up on stage and banged out an almost note perfect No More Heroes on the keyboard, much to the amusement of both band and audience alike!
Then they called it a day only missing out Down in The Sewer from their set list.
And the family were suitably primed for what would follow later that very same day…
They adjourned once more into the daylight to partake of some refreshment before the journey to the South and the West of the now! They shrugged off the Sea of Red that had descended upon them in the interim as it bore no significance to anything of any importance! Eventually the family clustered into smaller groups before taking the subterranean propulsion system toward Hammersmith and the next chapter of this story…
* During the performance I was fortunate enough to be standing right next to Keyboard player mick whose full on arpeggios and keyboard wizardry really are a sight to behold and also I’m happy to report that he was already feeling somewhat recovered after a short rest the very same afternoon.
Part 2. Hammersmith! Canadian Pigeons; Penguins: And Jackie Brown!
The Stranglers plus Nine Below Zero Live at The Hammersmith Apollo.
And so the black hordes issued from their temporary subterranean nest like a gigantic colony of human Soldier Ants. I took up my place with The Advanced Guard who positioned themselves in neat rows along the Front line. Meanwhile the Duke of Cornwall brought up the Rear!
Nine Below Zero took to the Stage and provided a solid set of straight up no nonsense R&B with a nod to Wilko Johnson they played an excellent rendition of Twenty Yards Behind. Tight! Is probably the best way to describe this band who sounded great in here tonight.
Toward the latter part of their set they were joined by Squeeze front man Glenn Tilbrook who played a fine mix of complementary Rhythm guitar coupled with some cool solos and the odd vocal line or two. Great Stuff!
The venue had now filled out to what looked and felt like capacity, hot and sweaty and nowhere to move. The air buzzed with anticipation awaiting the arrival of our Heroes.
Some white noise crackles and interference on the screens gave way to the sound of Waltzinblack cranked through the PA… It sped up and slowed down while the screens came to life with the words of the Aural Sculpture Manifesto… a superb, inspired, atmospheric build up for the main event.
The band walked on and kicked into London Lady and the whole place just took off! What a great start to the set; short, sharp sweet! No let-up straight on to No More Heroes followed by the seldom aired Coup De Grace which sounded superb tonight.
The Stranglers had announced early on that they would be playing a song from each of their 17 studio albums on this their Ruby Anniversary tour. It seemed hard to believe they would achieve this goal but tonight they delivered admirably and then some… The band that keeps on giving, they played full on for around two hours tonight.
Was it You, Threatened and Summat Outa Nowt found JJ on fine form, followed by the awesome Peasant in The Big Shitty, one of my all-time favourites and certainly a highlight of the evening (there were so many!) with Dave’s commanding vocal performance.
Baz did a great job on Still Life and Midnight Summer Dream. All the while the screens giving us fast forward glimpses of the bands history along with shots of the fans during NMH. And some great trippy atmospheric graphics especially on Peasant and MSD! And drummer Jim was clearly really finding his feet with the subtler aspects of the beats in black and doing an all-round bang up job!
A slight pause….
…The legendary founding fathers name rolled across the screens to the crowds delight. The master had joined the proceedings early tonight.
JET BLACK JET BLACK….
Golden Brown headed up Always The Sun with this Trio being rounded out by the suberb Genetix, with JJ’s bass rocking the place to its foundations along with impossible timing of the Drums and other instruments. Pure genius! Then as quickly as he had arrived he departed, handing the drum stool back to his worthy deputy.
Disco Dancing Delights could mean only one thing the superb Thrown Away while Never to Look Back completed another clutch of JJ songs. The band were firing on all cylinders and with songs like NTLB the current line-up really seem to be finding their mojo (not that they ever lost it!).
The set was so rich and varied tonight I’ll not go into full details (see attached graphic for that) a real treat for the fans with enough of a smattering of hits and classics to keep everyone happy. Once again Freedom is Insane proved itself a worthy modern classic.
Parched, I had to head off in search of refreshment during the first encore of Norfolk Coast, it presented me with a great chance to see the rest of the audience! The people were into it from the front to the back of the venue. Singing along and dancing. Everyone appeared up for it!
Earlier, we had been alerted to the presence of a Canadian Pigeon and saw such really enjoying the evening’s proceedings. Although the Missing Penguin did remain just that!
JET BLACK JET BLACK JET BLACK….
All too soon we were at the final encore and Jet was once more able to join in for the dual drum assault of tank. It really doesn’t get any better than this. Quite remarkable!
To summarize; the pace of the set was full on with a nice mix of light and dark (black) and the visual element was really great with the screens. I wish I had a rewind button and could go over it all again, the Directors cut… …but I lent the Sugar Tongs to Ravenette!
Slowly but surely we were ushered back out into the night from whence we came by the patient venue staff!
None wanted this evening to ever end and rightly so!
The Duke of Cornwall fell back at ease, while some of the others went back underground and a few of us brave souls ventured to India in search of nourishment.
We returned from India for a final report to the Duke before heading off, to a scene reminiscent of Jackie Brown, in search of Bag Lady’s Motor Vehicle.
The Black rubber hit the Black tar then the Black DMs hit the pavement and brought me home to drift off once more into the blackness!
Over and Out…
Thanks to Andy Miller for Photos of The Stranglers and to Audrey Grant for the Photo of The Stranglers set list.
P.S. apologies for errors and omissions!