Rychard Carrington reports on The Stranglers - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 18 March 2010

The Stranglers
Cambridge Corn Exchange, The


Despite postures which sometimes reflected their unfriendly name, I've long had a certain respect for The Stranglers. They've always been commendably independent-minded, maintaining an acrimonious relationship with the music press, but a very good one with their fans. They've never aligned themselves with trends; even though they were identified as a punk band, they never waved a flag for New Wave, or for anything else other than themselves. And musically they had a sophistication which distinguished them from most of their contemporaries; in particular their sound was characterised by keyboards in the style of Ray Manzarek, at a time when psychedelia was considerd dead and buried. And then when the mainstream radar moved away, they just carried on as before. Even when Hugh Cornwell departed in 1990, the other three pressed on regardless, as they have continued to do to this day.


So I suppose I was expecting a good show; I am pleased to report that that was what I experienced. After an energetic set of youthful punk by Maz Raptor, The Stranglers, all dressed in black as usual, performed a solid hour-and-a-half-long set of music that surely satisfied anyone sympethetic enough to attend (and there was an impressively large turnout). The Stranglers didn't talk much; in fact only Baz Warne (lead guitarist since 2000, lead singer since 2006) said anything at all; even the sometimes outgoing Jean-Jacques Burnel (who looked remarkably youthful) was silent. Baz Warne had a confident manner. His vocals were neither too different from Hugh Cornwell's, nor too similar. At the back Dave Greenfield and Jet Black just got on with playing their instruments. Jet Black, now seventy-one, was almost obscured by his drumkit. How much he was enjoying himself wasn't detectable, but he certainly drummed well. It was Dave Grenfield's keyboards, though, that really made the evening. Tonight their sound reproduced excellently: with song after song, their distinctive texture conferred a touch of class.


Most of the numbers were many years old, which doubtlessly pleased everyone. All of the hits featured: Go Buddy Go, Five Minutes, Strange Little Girl, Golden Brown, Walk On By (the Bacarach-David song really benefits from Stranglers snarl), Peaches, Nice'n'Sleazy, Hanging Around, Get A Grip On Yourself, Always The Sun, Duchess, Something Better Change, No More Heroes. Duchess was a favourite for me: a neat little pyschedelic ballad, combining New Wave energy and psychedelic fantasy. And Something Better Change has a classic refrain to which we can all relate, as does Grip's 'but the money's no good'.


The set was prearranged with three encores - in fact, they didn't really feel like encores, the band just left the stage and then returned without a word. Such an approach was rather typical: this is what we do, we know we do it well, talke it or leave it. And they did do it well.


Writer: Rychard Carrington