The Stranglers with support from The Godfathers
Saturday 2nd March – o2 Academy, Glasgow
Glasgow is not what it used to be. Once feared and reviled by touring bands for the “impress me or you’re getting bottled” attitudes, it seems to have become indie central. This writer was half expecting to get his head kicked in for walking into Govan with long hair.
Five years since they’ve reformed, The Godfathers have done well to land the support slot for the entire tour. A band who were on Epic Records in the late 80’s, they never quite crossed over into the mainstream despite playing events like Reading. And listening to their set, it’s not hard to hear why. The band’s sound is very much rooted in the mid 80’s “college rock” (as the Americans call it) sound, with hints of psych/garage in there (not surprising, considering the band formed out of the ashes of The Sid Presley Experience). And truth be told, it is not very inspiring. If it wasn’t for singer Peter Coyle giving it plenty in the vocal department and a few memorable tunes such as “Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues”, The Godfathers would be confined to the bin marked ’80’s leftovers.
Opening with ‘Toiler on the Sea’, it’s clear that The Stranglers are going for a more post punk set tonight. A more mid tempo number, it is an unusual opener but it makes more sense as the set continues. ‘Goodbye Toulouse’ carries on in this vein, and it’s not until ‘Get a Grip (On Yourself)’ that we get the punk energy that the band are well renowned for. A stunning way to get the energy going, ‘Get a Grip…’ still sounds menacing after 35 years.
Notably, legendary drummer Jet Black does not play half of the set owing to ill health (he is 75 after all). That is left to Jim MacAuley (introduced by frontman Baz Warne as “Prince Harry” on account of his gingerness), who does a sterling job. When Black takes to the stage to perform, he gets the biggest cheer of the night. Performing complex and up-tempo numbers like ‘Genetix’, ‘Something Better Change’ and ‘Tank’ he sounds as good as he ever has. Rumours abound the Academy that this is his last tour; it will be a very sad day if this turns out to be true.
The biggest surprises of the night were the inclusions of ‘Thrown Away’, ‘Midnight Summer Dream’ and ‘European Female’. The latter two date from the ‘Feline’ LP, when the band’s sound went very European (with electronic drums and acoustic guitars). Live, they sound immaculate and beautiful. More, more, more. ‘Thrown Away’ is from this writer’s favourite Stranglers LP, ‘TheGospelAccordingtotheMeninBlack.’ A weird mixture of UFO mythology, post punk electronics and upbeat pop, it was regarded as a flop at the time of release. Its critical standing has increased over the years, so getting to hear a song from the album live is a joy.
Legendary bassist Jean Jacques Burnel is the star of the show. His bass sound is still incredible and easy to hear how influential it was on the likes of Peter Hook. Hearing him play ‘Nice N Sleazy’ and ‘Duchess’ is enough to inspire you to pick up a bass yourself. Baz Warne is the best frontman they’ve had since Hugh Cornwell left in 1990.
The only criticism of the night is that there was only one song from the band’s 2012 album, ‘Giants.’ Considering that it was this writer’s favourite album of last year, it would have been nice to have heard a few more numbers. But The Stranglers have such a rich back catalogue that it doesn’t matter and they are still one of the best bands of all time.