Never one to look gift whorses in the mouth, the kind offer of a discount (100%) ticket from the local support encouraged me enough to do a little more bucket band list ticking and have a Stranglers experience with their former frontman.
Being just about old enough to remember some of their definitive tunes troubling the late 70’s/early 80’s mainstream I had still not paid them much attention, possibly a bit too clean for an alleged punk band compared to some of my filthier tastes in the genre. This changed within the last year when in a joint blog interview with me and our hostess with the mostest (STD’s) Mr Crud named their debut album “Rattus Norvegicus” as an all-time favourite, prompting me to pick it up and give it a proper listen. And a curious thing it was too, much more experimental, unconventional and unique than I was expecting, maybe still not entirely up my street but in the right part of crazy town anyway. So while this was a long time ago and Hugh has been solo for some time I still thought this would be an interesting evening
Hadn’t been to the Tiv since Hawkwind a while back, as expected an older median to the attendees but there was at least a reasonable turnout and fair play for the place and the promoters still making this a destination on the touring circuits for these known bands. I bought an expensive can of Tetley a third of which exploded out on opening, took it on the chin, went up front.
Red or Dead were underway already, a much expanded line-up from when I saw them as a three piece in Bangor. This did add depth to their strident folk-punk which may have been a good thing as I don’t think the sound was the best for them in terms of clarity of getting their biting messages across. Still, there was a good rhythmic flow to their songs, the ringing out of the semi-acoustic guitar, an obvious heartfelt passion in the delivery. Look forward to more from them headlining the We Shall Overcome event in Conwy on October 8th.
With no grand ceremony the main man, Hugh Cornwell takes the stage with his accompanying rhythm section. Starting with “Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit” it’s a pretty stripped back affair (perhaps with the sound still being sorted), his guitar a slightly tentative jangle over the steady backing beats and bass. Following it with an old classic “Nice and Sleazy” stirs some enthusiastic response from the crowd, and then we are on a roll. Great bass playing is a key as it always has been in their sound, and although Caroline could be viewed as a youngster she’s been in the band a while and is incredibly deft in driving those lines along, while the drummer Chris is precise, powerful and subtle as the mood requires. There’s a good vibe between the three of them on stage (including pill popping 😉 ) and Hugh is pretty humble and engaging in his interactions, asks about the cricket result and gets a cheeky chant of “Pakistan” in return. His voice is strong too, especially as he mixes up emotional songs with more cutting social commentary as in “I want one of those”. There’s great harmony backing from the crowd for the likes of “Hanging around” and “Always the Sun” and of course “Golden Brown”. It was about this time after my second can exploded and I was covered with golden brown beer that I complained at the bar. “They’ve all been doing that, no you can’t have money back or an exchange”. Ok, that story changes when I check underneath and find the can is a month out of date, they remove the rest and give compensation to me, not sure if anyone else was left feeling dodgy! You’ve got to watch them. Anyway, a brief encore that sadly didn’t include Prong’s “Grip” ( 😉 ) but it was still a well received and satisfying evening. The band were out front at the merch doing signings and selfies straight away, while I might not fork out to see them again I can recommend them as an entertaining entity.