Gospel According to the Men In Black

The last time I saw Stuart Pearce introduce a band was the Sex Pistols at Finsbury Park back in 1996, today he repeats the task for his old mates The Stranglers. Originally called The Guildford Stranglers this is something of a homecoming gig for the original progressive punks.

They always draw a big crowd at Guilfest and today is no exception with the warm weather assisting in drawing a big crowd to the main stage. I’ve seen The Stranglers several times over the years and to be honest they’ve always disappointed me, even when original singer /guitarist Hugh Cornwell was still fronting them. In latter years this role was taken on by Paul Roberts and there always something not quite right about his tenure. Since his departure the frontman role has been taken by guitarist Baz Warne, supporting the original core of Burnell, Greenfield and drummer Jet Black (who unbelievably is now 70!). On previous occasions the problem has been the set list, throwing far too many slower songs in amongst the better and more upbeat material. Today though we’re in for a rare treat!

Following the traditional backing track ‘Waltz in Black’ they go straight into ‘5 Minutes’ followed by the excellent ‘Grip’, not a bad start by any means with Burnell and Warne exchanging knowing glances and broad grins as they work both stage and crowd. The fat (or should that be ‘phat’ these days?) bass intro of ‘Peaches’ gets a big roar from the crowd and when they follow it with ‘Nice & Sleazy’ it’s becoming evident that we’re getting a greatest hits set and I’m certainly not complaining. OK there is a slower section with ‘Skin Trade’, ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Walk On By’ but it works today and as it’s several years since I heard some of those it’s good to hear them. They bring the pace back up with brilliant renditions of ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘Something Better Change’. The sound is great and the performance both entertaining and good fun; not surprisingly they go down exceptionally well as they bring matters to a close with ‘All Day & All of the Night’ and ‘No More Heroes’.

Warne moving to lead vocal duties somehow makes them feel more authentic and with such a great setlist their performance stands out as one of the highlights of the weekend.