Stranglers@ Edinburgh HMV Picture House

4 stars (out of 5)

1

There was a particular moment at the Stranglers’ Edinburgh gig where the band seemed to have truly succeeded in bringing the audience together. About six songs in, the Picture House was flooded in orange light and a huge chorus reached an even bigger climax:  “Always, always, always the sun!”. No person present could resist singing as loud as they could muster and the sound was incredible. Grins appeared across the faces of everyone onstage, the first time this had occurred the whole night.

This doesn’t mean that the band hadn’t had a good time up to this point. They had already bounced their way through the hit “Peaches” amongst others to everyone’s delight. The Stranglers almost didn’t play the Picture House. It quickly became apparent that Baz Warne had suffered some sort of accident involving a hotel shower door before the show and had one hand almost completely covered in bandages, making the energy of their performance even more surprising. There was of course the odd wince and moments where the guitar would stop as Warne inspected his hand but all this did was make the performance seem more human, something all crowds love, this one in particular.

Despite this, bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel seemed to be doing a very good job at looking as unimpressed with anything as he possibly could. Drummer Jet Black was an extremely tight performer but at his current age of 72 he seemed to be putting all of his energy into keeping this up: at the start of the band’s second song, “Was It You?”, there seemed to be a bit of a mix-up with the setlist. A total of three false starts were played and the culprit seemed to be Black playing the drum part for an entirely different song. Each time the band stopped, Burnel and Warne both turned to Black and exchanged confused and amused looks as they attempted to run it again.

At the age of 46, Baz Warne is the youngest here, replacing Hugh Cornwell as lead vocalist. He brought most of the band’s raw energy to the stage and did all the talking, which didn’t amount to much: only a song introduction here and there and an explanation of his own hand injury.

The band gave the audience a portion of the show to calm down, playing songs that were perhaps not as well known as the obvious hits and favourites of big fans.  This made the return to the signatures extremely welcome and showed how well the Stranglers can craft a setlist, managing to raise the excitement even further by cheekily leaving the enormous rocker “No More Heroes” until the final song of the second encore, finishing the night with a boom. Other songs included in the encore were a stellar version of the Kinks’ “All Day And All Of The Night” and “Hanging Around”.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention support act Wilko Johnson who played for a good hour beforehand, still strutting all over the stage as he is famous for. It was remarkable what a sound his band of three, including himself, managed to make as he stormed his way through Dr. Feelgood hits as well as solo material. This was a perfect opening for a consistently rocking night.