It’s been 31 years (yep - thirty one!!) since I last saw THE STRANGLERS - and that wasn’t even the first time! It was on the ‘Dream Time’ tour and they stopped in Ipswich. That was back when Hugh Cornwall was still in them. Hugh actually jumped in the crowd that night to pull a guy outta the audience who had been spitting at them. The guy had had a warning before letting another big greeny go, so Hugh jumped into the throng at the front of the stage at the Ipswich Gaumont and hauled the gobber onto the stage. The band then proceeded to take said gobber’s trousers and undies down, exposing his weener to all of us laughing and shouting Ipswich Punks! Then a banana was produced, peeled and stuffed on the gobber’s gonads, undies and trousers very roughly pulled up squishing the ‘nana and skin in his undies, before Mr. Gobber was given to the roadies!! That remains one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen at a show.
Anyway, I lost interest in the band after Hugh left; to me he was very intrinsic to the make-up of the band, even though musically they always pivoted around Dave Greenfield’s keyboards and that monstrous, pounding bass of JJ Burnel. This show was billed as the ‘Classic Collection’, which is pretty self-explanatory. So, with the added bonus of RUTS DC, I got my ticket and headed to a rain-soaked Auckland to see THE STRANGLERS for, what I had and still have no doubts about, the last time.
All too soon, RUTS DC came on looking very dapper for a bunch of fellas who are probably very close to drawing their pension! The band’s last album, ‘Music Must Destroy’ is a total cracker and they launched with a track from that - ‘Surprise’. From there it was a totally classy performance of classic RUTS and tracks from that new album. It’d be pretty pointless saying what the highlights were as every track, ummm,... Destroyed. ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘West One’, ‘Music Must Destroy’, ‘Kill The Pain’, ‘Jah War’, ‘In A Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and closer ‘Psychic Attack’. The only fault was the set was way too short.
These guys are seasoned, quality musicians. Drummer Dave Ruffy in particular didn’t drop a beat and played those old, complicated RUTS rhythms without fault. Both guitarist Leigh Heggarty and bassist Segs looked great too, often drawing in tight around the drum kit to really lock in. Segs also made the comment of the evening asking, with a distinct smirk, who was going to see the Foo Fighters the following night in some hideous stadium. Surprisingly, a lot (too many?) of the crowd were... “I shouldn’t be so cheeky should I?” was his reply!!
I was hoping for an encore - but alas no....
Hugh’s latest replacement, Baz Warne, did a fair sounding impression of him I concur, but that sense of intimidation that I’d always experienced at previous STRANGLERS gigs was noticeably lacking. Maybe it’s cuz I’m 31 years older too!! Dave did a stunning one-handed keyboard solo (I think during ‘Walk On By’) while drinking a beer (or water) before scrunching the cup and heading it away. It got one of the biggest cheers of the night and seemed to put the biggest of smiles on the collective face of the band. Incidentally, I didn’t realise drummer Jet Black had left the fold either.
My own personal favourite, ‘Duchess’ got aired (first STRANGLERS record I ever bought dontcha know!), ‘No More Heroes’ was part of the encore - and then they were gone.
I felt a bit unfulfilled on leaving. While the good bits were great (let’s face it, the good songs are fucking classics and they were played well), there’s no denying my attention wandered and that tension I always associated with the band had gone.
Yep, this was definitely the last time I’ll see THE STRANGLERS - unless, maybe, Hugh rejoins.