The Stranglers at O2 Academy Bristol - Bristol Live Music Review

Posted on: 2019-03-30

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The Stranglers roll back the years as their latest live tour touches down in Bristol.

We are in The Hatchet having a drink, starting a night at The O2 Academy as we always do.  Surrounded by predominantly ageing men dressed in black, most of which are wearing faded stretched t-shirts that have all seen better days, we're on the annual pilgrimage to see The Stranglers.

The Stranglers.

On entering the venue the support band are already underway, and I'm stunned when I realise that it's Dr Feelgood.  I do not recognise any band members. The original band are from Canvey Island and were pioneers for pub rock. Lee Brilleaux on vocals and harmonica was rarely seen without a whiskey and cigarette on stage and Wilko Johnson's unique guitar sounds brought music back to small sweaty venues paving the pathway for the punk rock movement that followed.  I am sorry to say that without these icons or any original members it has not survived the test of time.  Great hits including Milk and Alcohol, Down at the Doctors and many more are sadly lost in tonight's performance.


It is a sold-out show tonight and we are feeling it as we are penned in by the ever-swelling crowd.  Excited punters are swapping stories with each other, reminiscing about bygone gigs from back in the early days of The Stranglers.  All of a sudden the lights drop and The Men in Black theme fills the air, a very strange fairground type tune that has been the band's intro for a long time.


The first number up as The Stranglers hit the stage is Tank, taken from the Black and White album that ironically we had played on the record player before setting off for the show. ' I've Been Wild' followed, before Barry Baz Warne shouts good evening Bristol, and crashes into firm favourite 'Get a Grip(on yourself)'. Baz has now been with The Stranglers for nearly twenty years and has earned his stripes.  Although I and many others still worship the original maestro Hugh Cornwall, I believe that the band have moved on and raised their game. 


The band have entwined a varied and not obvious backlog of material tonight along with new compositions that seem to be satisfying the die-hard fans.  'Peaches' is a number that takes the show to a new level.  At this point, Baz collects a banner from someone that displays Happy 70th Birthday Dave.  He gets the faithful to sing Happy Birthday for the man on the keyboard that has been there from the start.  With his unusual set up of 3 keyboards stacked on top of oil drums, plus another to the side, he plays effortlessly and can even do a solo one-handed while drinking a beer with the other.  What a pro he is, and he easily keeps up with the rest of the slightly younger members of the band. I cannot believe that Dave Greenfield is 70 as in these moments we all feel like we're still teenagers. 


The band like many others seem to have a love of playing in Bristol and are keen to state it. Baz enjoys some banter with the crowd, laughing about the price of the beer in the venue.  He is a great frontman and we could easily forget that Hugh Cornwall was ever in the band in the first place.  He has more than made his mark over the 19 years he has been in the band. 


'Time to Die' and 'Man on the Moon' take us to Duchess, at this point the whole of the venue participates again to another gem from the back catalogue.  The songs keep on coming, hit after hit, among them 'Golden Brown' 'Always the Sun' '5 minutes' and 'Something Better Change' it is quite surprising just how many classic tunes this band have had until you realise they have been doing it for well over 40 years. 


The show is brought to a close with 'Down in the Sewer' a track that is heavily laden with keyboards and bass. This is the backbone and body of what makes The Stranglers what they are.  Even after storming through 24 songs the ever hungry crowd still want more.  


The Stranglers arrive back on stage to smash through 'Hanging Around' and bowing out to 'No More Heroes'. We are satisfied.  This is why this music survives today, although we have all grown older, the attitude will never age. 

Article by:

Andrea Martin

Andrea was born and raised in Bristol but moved to Weston-super-Mare as a teenager, around the same time the punk scene hit Britain and was right in the thick of it. Embracing the music and bands of that time, she has been a regular at most of the Bristol gigs ever since. Music, especially live, is in her veins and after performing in bands of her own over the years she continues to sing in a local choir. “Music has and always will be a massive part of my life, and I will be a party girl ‘til the day I die.”