LIVE REVIEW: The Stranglers - not quite the heroes they used to be

JJ Burnel and Baz Warne of The Stranglers in action. (Photo: Robin Burns).
JJ Burnel and Baz Warne of The Stranglers in action. (Photo: Robin Burns).

Playing a classic album in full can be a risky affair.

On one hand, the diehards will lap it up, while those just there for the hits and singalongs will be left awkardly shuffling around waiting for songs such as Golden Brown to get an airing (more of that later).

Legendary punks (although they never really were) The Stranglers are on one such UK tour and arrived at Sheffield's O2 Academy to showcase their 1978 offering Black And White.

To illustrate the point the band, dressed entirely in black, played against a white lit stage set and dealt with the album in a brisk, no-nonsense fashion, almost as if they were keen to whistle through it and get onto the well-known stuff.

Frontman Baz Warne, who was now been with the band for the same amount of time as original frontman Hugh Cornwell, snarled his way through classics such as Tank, Nice 'n' Sleazy and Toiler On The Sea, with the minimum of fuss and chatter before we got round to the second half of the set.

With Jim McCauley standing in for legendary drummer Jet Black, now 77 and still suffering health problems, only bassist JJ Burnel and keyboard maestro Dave Greenfield remain from the original early days.

There's no doubting that the band have still got it - tracks such as Walk On By and Something Better Change still crackle with verve and energy, wrapped in Burnel's twangy basslines and Greenfield's signature keyboard sound, but this felt like a set from a group determined to do their own thing and to hell with what the audience think.

So classics such as the aforementioned Golden Brown were notably absent, along with many other hits from the band's 74-90 heyday. There's no room for Duchess, Strange Little Girl, Skin Deep, the epic Down In The Sewer or even the misogynistic sleazy filth of Peaches. Maybe they'll get an airing when they do the albums those singles were housed on. At least we were given Always The Sun though.

Baz manages to overcome a broken guitar string in the finale of No More Heroes and Go Buddy Go and I Feel Like A Wog are also chucked in in a frenetic finish.

As the band make a low-key exit after their encore, the audience seemed puzzled - as if they'd somehow been cheated at missing out on half The Stranglers' admirable back catalogue and the air was rich with comments along the lines of "Thought they'd play Peaches" as we make our way for the doors.

All in all, a nice idea - but a disappointing one too. They're not quite the heroes they used to be.

* Darren Burke