Back in June I received a phone call inviting me to go and watch the Stranglers play for the forces in Cyprus. Obviously not a chance to be missed, the following day everything was booked and so the short count down to my fifth trip to Cyprus began. The Stranglers had been invited to entertain the troops once again after successful trips to Bosnia, Falklands & Belfast by the CSE (Combined Services Entertainments). As we arrived one week before hand there was plenty of time to enjoy the build up to the gigs. Lots of promotional trailers were being played on BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Services) It was great to hear the band being mentioned so much and with so many Stranglers songs being played on the radio it seemed like Stranglersmania was about to happen in Cyprus. The day before the gigs began JJ & Jet gave an excellent interview on BFBS talking about both past and present. With all promotion for the first show complete, we were ready for The Stranglers debut performance in sunny Cyprus
JUNE 22nd AKROTIRI HOCKEY PITCH
The first two shows were both staged at RAF Akrotiri for the troops from Akrotiri and Episkopi bases. The make shift venue was the camps hockey pitch where two trailers had been used to form a stage, complete with backdrop and lighting gantries. Eating and drinking facilities had been provided and all aspects of the show had been organized and set up in a very professional manner. The weather had been in the high nineties over the last few days and as the sun began to set the action was about to heat up. Support at all shows was offered by the dancing girls of Licensed to Thrill, up and coming comedian Jim Tavere (very entertaining) and the excellent local forces band The Short Straw. At around 9.00 The Stranglers made their entrance with the opening sample from 'God is good' before bursting into ''Get a grip on yourself''. The band looked to be in good form and from the opening track I knew we were in for a great show. ''Skin deep'' followed by a superb version of ''Money'' with Mr. Roberts in fine voice. ''Nice & sleazy'' was next with Paul inviting any of the females in the audience to join in the customary strip, unfortunately there were no volunteers! It was then time to put on your dancing shoes and take to the floor for ''Thrown away''. Paul's changing vocal style on this was excellent as always. ''Strange little girl'' followed and most of the crowd were very familiar with this song. By now you could see the boys really enjoying themselves and so were a very enthusiastic crowd. The next two songs were ''Toiler'' followed by a very appropriate song for Cyprus ''Always the sun''. A personal live favourite of mine ''Valley of the birds '' saw the band flying into ''96 Tears'' & ''Straighten out'' with the audience responding to Paul's every move ''All day''
''Duchess'' and the military referenced ''Tank'' completing a rousing set. The band quickly returned with 'Golden brown'' & ''5 minutes'' for the first encore. As the band left the stage, this very appreciative audience wanted more and they were not disappointed. They returned once again with Mr. Greenfield playing the opening notes of ''Hanging around''. At this point their first over enthusiastic member of the audience joined them on the stage. With an estimated crowd of around 500+ there was nobody standing still by the time JJ kicked in ''No more heroes''. In all a truly awesome first night performance
JUNE 23rd AKROTIRI HOCKEY PITCH
A few hours before the start of this show The Stranglers had invited the children from the RAFs School to watch the band play their final sound check. And with around 50 young Stranglers fans in their seats, they were treated to ''Always the sun'' with Paul encouraging their screams on each hit of the wooden block. ''Strange little girl'' was next and then they were given a short dancing lesson to 'Something better change'' before the final song ''Coup de grace''. This made for a very entertaining sound check in the scorching Cypriot sun. Following the previous nights show and with the fantastic reviews The Stranglers had been getting throughout the day on forces radio, we were expecting an even bigger crowd tonight including a lot of people returning to see The Stranglers again. Tonight's support band as at all the shows were The Short Straw who played cover versions of Green day, Buzzcocks, Clash and a rare outing to The Jags "Back of my hand" set the tone very well. The band had cleverly used the logo ''5 songs and you're almost there'' on their tour shirts. At around 9.00 The Stranglers again took to the Akrotiri stage and played another faultless set. Tonight saw one song ''Straighten out'' being changed by the more chantable ''Something better change'. Each night Paul's banter with the crowd became more and more entertaining. During ''All day'' we were treated to some very amusing sing a longs with Dave's spontaneous keyboard playing. Tonight's show again left everybody amazed at the impact and impression the band deliver on stage. Leaving another very happy audience with no doubt they had just witnessed a superb show.
JUNE 24th NICOSIA LEDRA PALACE
The setting for tonight's show was within the United Nations base in the buffer zone area, which splits this city at the site of the former Ledra Palace hotel. Tonights audience was slightly less than the previous two nights but was very interesting as it was made up of various nationalities: Russians, Australians, Dutch, Americans, British etc. Tonight's show was again outside and described by Paul as ''a playground''. The area was surrounded in trees adjacent to the hotel. As the CSE show is an annual event everybody was in high spirits as The Stranglers took to the stage with the openers ''Grip, Skin & Money'' to another appreciative audience. This was certainly to be the most testing gig with such varied nationalities in the audience. Again the strength of a live Stranglers performance shone through with the crowd getting louder with every song. With The Stranglers well into their set a large firework display on the other side of town lit the Nicosia skylight and it seemed that the locals also approved of The Stranglers being in town. Tonight Paul jokingly dedicated ''Always the sun'' to three unfortunate officers who had been sent home for going to the nicknamed and out of bounds ''nipple beach''. The language barrier did not seem to be a problem by the time we hit ''All day'' with JJ's thundering bass, Jet's precision drumming, Dave's impeccable keyboard playing, John's elite guitar work and Paul's unique vocal and stage performance. Some members of the audience were enjoying themselves so much that they were pouring beer over each other's heads (do the Stranglers really have this effect on people?). As the band returned for the encore, Paul quite rightly told someone who had shouted out one to many times for the now defunct ''Peaches'' to go home and listen to the CD (nice one Paul !!). The first encore again received a great response and the band again returned for the second encore with Paul substituting the word ''Coleherne'' with ''playground'' on ''Hanging around'' before finishing off with the now standard final track "Heroes". Again the band had been very well received by a very unusual cross section audience in a very unusual setting.
JUNE 25th DHEKALIA ALEXANDER BARRACKS
Tonight's show had been set up in a large car park with some temporary terracing at the rear of the venue. This was the final show of this mini Cyprus forces tour. Support for the show again was very good with the very amusing Jim Tavere, the well received covers band The Short Straw and the dancing girls of Licensed to Thrill. Tonight's performance was for the British army and there was no doubting that this crowd was ready to enjoy themselves. Sure enough as The Stranglers cruise into the set everybody was treated to the delights of ''Sleazy, Thrown and Toiler'' again played to perfection. The front of the stage now resembled a mass bunch of squaddies dancing to the meninblack. As the band thundered through the set some people's antics went a little too far and with a lot beer being thrown about things looked as though they would get out of hand. But full credit to The Stranglers who seemed to thrive on the action. By the time we reached ''Duchess & Tank'' a few over enthusiastic stage divers were trying to strut their stuff. One unfortunate person who decided to lie down on the stage didn't expect Mr.Burnell to show him who was in charge by politely standing on top of him during ''Hanging around''. As the band played the final song of the tour, Dave treated us to an extra long solo as he finished his now customary drink. There was no doubting that The Stranglers had picked up a lot of new admirers during four very impressive shows. As ''No more heroes'' finished the band received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience and also from everybody associated with the organizing of the tour…
Overall, The Stranglers were received unbelievably at all the shows and I was in the very fortunate position to attend them all. I would like to personally thank all members of the band whose truly professional approach proved to me again, as it has so many times in the past, that in a live situation there is no other band that comes close to the magic of The Stranglers…..
Dave Southworth 1999