Live Review: The Stranglers in Sheffield, 15/03/14

Venue: o2 Academy
Date: 15/03/14

The Stranglers. How many bands can claim to be as influential, as long standing and as comfortable in their own niche as them? Not very many, I promise you that.

From the start of the band in 1974 they’ve been pushing what punk rock can and should do with a song writing ethos that says “if it’s right, then it’s right” regardless of what pigeon hole people want to place them in. The followers they have here in the O2 are a good mix of ages and styles that proves the band’s appeal to just about anybody so this gig at the O2 Sheffield should be a decent night.

The support comes from south London blues/ R&B band Nine Below Zero. I was loving the first three or four songs of a set full of grimy guitars, grooves and nicely placed harmonica but after a while I found myself feeling it was all getting a bit samey.

Yes, they were raucous, yes they had stage presence and yes they could all definitely play their instruments with ease and style. The members of this band are all long standing pros, each with a history that most musicians can only dream of, but after a while I found the set had a lack of variety.

If they were playing their own show with more time and a chance to put more songs in the set, I bet this band can offer more than they gave on this occasion.

The set from the headliners should be a warning to others. A warning; because even after 40 years they can still out-class a lot of the younger bands that think the right poses and haircut is all that’s needed.

Some of the big songs were pelted out early on with No More Heroes surprisingly the second song in and Peaches played halfway through. A lot of the songs had a video or a set of images that played along with it that had been thoughtfully made to compliment each track. It added the impression that its much more than the music that the band want you to consider. It felt like the band were the almost asking you questions with each song and video played but the answers being left up to each individual to judge if they were right or wrong.

The bass and guitar onslaught from Jean-Jacques Burnel and Baz Warne were occasionally given a chance to rest when a song like Golden Brown was played with it’s waltzing lilt allowing the crowd a rest and a chance to breathe and for the keys of Dave Greenfield to be allowed to come forward and fill the room before the next aggressive melody was ripped into.

The only downsides to tonight’s performance was a problem with the guitar amps and the obvious absence of original drummer Jet Black who was meant to be playing some songs on the encore but was too ill to perform. Touring drummer Jim MacAulay played the whole set.

When you next go to see a band. Any band. Ask yourself this… was this as good as The Stranglers?

– Matt Churchard

View full set of live gig images: click here.

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