Never before has the old adage "like audience like band" proved so true. A year ago at the Dominion in London, "The Stranglers were a gruelling spectacle, distant, dreary and tame. A year ago they were quite plainly going through the motions.
But tonight amidst a virtually hysterical - making even the most debauched of London gigs seem funereal - the band stalk into their revitalised set with an obvious lusty glint in their eyes. Cornwell is sleek and sinister, JJ Burnel taut and supple Jet Black solid and reliable, and Dave Greenfield, a raven- haired dandy in matching sweat·shirt and long johns a wee bit odd, but there you go.
To begin with it looks dicey. Greenfield's keyboards splutter and die, only to burst back into life then fizzle out yet again. But the sheer exuberance of the event itself eventually overshadows, then banishes these initial problems altogether.
Songs from the new and surprisingly vibrant `Dreamtime' LP are received already like old friends as is the suave and gently psychedelic current single, "Always Ths Sun".
Latter-day Stranglers material - tunes like the exquisite "Strange Little Girl", stuff thats revealed the group to be highly competent brute balladeers - doesn't quite click as it should within the live environment but the snarlers work like magic.
"Nice 'n' Sleazy" sees the stage invaded by 30 or so would·be JJs, each mimicking the bassists curious karate kicks and hip·swivels with a rabid eye for detail, turning the performance into more of a family get·together than the big pop concert I'd been expecting. Cornwell's smiling face says it all.
It's good to see so many people not caring about who's hip and what for and why. It's also nice to find The Stranglers putting out their best music in years, getting to grips with it and having fun. They never actually do anything startling but that's possibly where their strength lies: they excel at being artfully ordinary. I'm almost converted.
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