REVIEW: The Stranglers (with Therapy?)
The Ironworks, Inverness
Friday, March 9
The Stranglers: **
On a night littered with their biggest hits, some Stranglers fanswill have left having got their money’s worth, thinking all was peachy.
The post-punk icons showcased some of their most famous wares – GoldenBrown, Peaches and Hanging Around among others all reverberated aroundthe sold-out Ironworks throughout a technically-proficient gig. The bandsounded tight and professional throughout the hour and a half, with acolourful visual display behind them offering a varied display.
Tight and professional does not a good gig make, however – and on thisnight, The Stranglers failed to take my breath away.
Largely static throughout with the exception of the odd shuffle of thefeet or – in particularly passionate moments – the odd kick out, thiswas a performance that felt listless. In fact, it felt like this was thethird month of this Definitive Tour, instead of being only the thirddate.
It had all started off so promising as well thanks to the efforts ofsupport act Therapy?, making their return to the Ironworks sincetheir gig during the Inverness venue’s opening week back in August 2006.
Over a bouncing 45 minutes crackling with the life and energy of a bandthat were enjoying themselves, the trio threw themselves full force intoa set that was heavy with tunes from their most well-known effortTroublegum – with a few oldies and new songs dotted here and there.
Frontman Andy Cairns sparkled with charm as he cracked jokes, toldstories, wished happy birthdays and generally showcased a vim and energythat belied the fact that he had been playing these songs for almostthree decades.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to be back in Inverness,” heproclaims at one point – and it’s a credit to how much effort the bandput into their set that it comes across as something genuine.
The Stranglers could have learned something from their energy yet alas –where Therapy? rocked, The Stranglers lolled. Part of that’s down to adifference in musical styles, of course – Therapy? deal in big chuggingcapital-R “Riffs”, whereas The Stranglers have always been rather morefascinatingly off-kilter in their music.
This difference in energy should not excuse the lack of energy theStranglers showed however as they slumped their way through track aftertrack with little acknowledgement of the audience before them.
However there were a few attempts at banter, regrettably. A couple ofsongs into the set, guitarist and vocalist Baz Warne declares that theband are “Delighted to be in [our] freezing city,” before calling the50mph speed limit on the A9 a moneymaking scam.
There were one or two moments where the band burst into life. The bignumbers crackled beautifully – Golden Brown in particular sounding ascrisp and fragile live as it ever had.
And JJ Burnel’s driving basslines remain as excellent as ever,propelling songs like Relentless forward with an unstoppable momentum.
Yet the band only really sparked into life two-thirds into the hour anda half set with the aid of a beer. This beer wasn’t drunk for liquidcourage however; it was hurled at the stage by somebody in the crowd –provoking a furious response from Baz.
“If I find out who it was, you’re ’aving it,” he roared, in a briefmoment of raw and untempered passion that would only return during theset’s encore – when he brought the incident up again, making more grumpythreats of physical violence before “dedicating” the song 5 Minutes towhoever had thrown it.
As the final notes of set-closer No More Heroes rang out, it brought anight filled with hits to a close, performed live in the Highlandcapital with technical competence by one of the most famous bands of thepost-punk explosion.
Yet that was all The Stranglers were offering tonight – this was a setthat gave the crowd exactly what they thought it wanted and no more,with no apparent ambition or passion for creating a compelling ormemorable live experience beyond that. This pair of eyes witnessed a legacy show. Nothingmore.
Whatever happened to our heroes, indeed.