When I was a kid, i fought a lot with my younger brother but as we grew up, we found our separate friends and pursued our own hobbies and interests but one thing that we both agreed on was a love of The Stranglers. We went to see a few bands but our first gig together was to see the Stranglers at Stafford Bingley Hall in May 1978 on The Black and White tour. My brother passed away six years ago so I knew that seeing Hugh Cornwell, the former lead singer of the band would be a pretty emotional night.
Hugh left The Stranglers in 1990 and has released ten studio albums which is the same number that he made with his former band if you exclude the two live ones. It`s hard to believe that he`s been solo for thirty-three years which is twice as long as he was with The Stranglers. I`ve only caught him twice at The Prince Of Wales Theatre in Cannock twenty years ago and last year supporting The Undertones in Coventry.
Tonight`s event was split into two halves. The first included songs from his solo career and a few from his last album `Moments of Madness` and the second a set of Stranglers` classics.
We kick off with `Coming Out of the Wilderness` from last year`s `Moments of Madness` album and it`s a cracking bluesy rock n roll marker with a sweet guitar solo. As HC is now a septuagenarian you forget that he`s been playing guitar for well over fifty years and is understandably fairly adapt. It`s back a decade for `Stuck in Daily Mail Land` a song I do like before returning for the reggae-tinged title track of the recent release with `Moments of Madness`.
`Mr. Leather` is kind of spoken word and inspired by aborted attempts to meet one of Hugh`s influences Lou Reed and `Under Her Spell` which to me has a kind of retro psychedelic vibe. We get a mix of old and new and for me, when played live they take on a different dimension with tracks like `I Want One of Those` which could fit into a Tarantino movie, `Another Kind of Love` with its drum cadence and `Mothra` which is mainly instrumental. The first set closes out with recent `Lasagna` with it`s Bo Diddly texture and pumping introspective `When I Was a Young Man`.
The trio return after a twenty minute interval and lead us in on a wonderful version of `Waltzinblack` before igniting the crowd with `Hanging Around`. I`m sure we heard the less well known `Tramp` and `Souls` with `Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front` sandwiched in between but sung in Swedish. Hugh did his post-graduate research at Lund University in Sweden so must have learnt it then and the band were also gigging there last week. We enjoy `Thrown Away` before a favourite of mine follows with `Always the Sun` which has the faithful singing along like a crowd at a football match.
`Goodbye Toulouse`, singalong `Skin Deep`, `London Lady` and i`m sure `Turn the Centuries, Turn` close out this part of the show.
The fellas Hugh, Pat Hughes on bass and Windsor McGilvray on drums return for an encore which includes a delightfully jazzy `Golden Brown` and `Duchess` before taking their bows after this cracking two-hour set.
A real night of mixed emotions but it was good to catch up with somebody who fronted a band who were for me, a little bit outside of the punk scene but whose frontman still has a eye on the future while recognising his legacy.
I did have a smile thinking about what my brother would have made of it and I’m sure he`d have approved.