LIVE REVIEWS, 2022.
THE STRANGLERS / RUTS DC, Brixton Academy, 5/2/22. Ruts DC are an ideal support band for The Stranglers, with a musical style that has always been so much more than ‘basic punk’ and a good selection of both old and new material to keep their set lively and unpredictable. They also the kind of character that keeps everyone’s attention, despite being a three-piece band on such a large stage, while they also have the quality of songs that you just can’t ignore! Limited to a 45 minute set, they play so many great songs in rapid succession, from ‘In a Rut’ through to ‘West One’ and ‘Staring at the Rudeboys’ through to ‘Psychic Attack’. I go to see Ruts DC as often as I can, but having them play alongside the Stranglers is a real bonus! This tour had been announced as The Stranglers final ‘full’ UK tour and, as with many other bands, had been delayed due to Covid. Sadly, the pandemic also resulted in the death of Dave Greenfield, which came as an tragic and unexpected loss for the band and their fans. Fortunately, the band had almost completed their latest album, ‘Dark Matters’, before this event, so it was finally released as a fitting tribute to Dave’s legacy. As an original member of the band, he played such an important role in defining their sound, so the tour also gained further poignance in the circumstances. To their credit, the band didn’y play-up to the situation but rather just played as well as ever, mixing old favourites with tracks from the new album in a perfect example of their continued vitality. Starting off with ‘Toiler on the Sea’, quickly followed by ‘Something Better Change’ and ‘Sometimes’, the band set their pace straightaway before presenting the excellent ‘Water’ from the latest album. Things take a slower tempo over the next few songs, including ‘Skin Deep’, a rare live version of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and ‘Always the Sun’, interspersed with more new songs like ‘The Last Men on the Moon’, before ‘Grip’ and ‘Curfew’ raise the temperature once again. The main set then worked towards its’ climax with ‘Straighten Out’, ‘Duchess’ and ‘Hanging Around’, guaranteeing a massive ovation from the audience. The first encore is somewhat restrained, musically at least, but certainly tinged with emotion, as they play through two recent songs, ‘The Lines’ and the tribute to their missing comrade, ‘If You Should See Dave’. I doubt if anyone on the venue missed the relevance of that song. Another huge burst of applause rang out before the band returned for their second encore, this time restoring the energy levels with blistering versions of ‘5 Minutes’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and ‘No More Heroes’. What an amazing gig this was! Some will no doubt be saying that, with only JJ Burnel now left from the original line-up, the band are no longer ‘real’, but just go and see them playing live. You could never play something this powerful unless it’s the real deal!
THE CHORDS UK, 100 Club, 19/2/22. Funnily enough here’s another band that may only have one original member but are still an incredible live band and also intent on releasing great new albums. In this case, this was part of a tour promoting their latest album, the excellent ‘Big City Dreams’. Starting the set with ‘Listen to the Radio’ (first track from the new album) was a bold statement, especially when it was quickly followed by the classic ‘Something’s Missing’, creating an instant comparison point. But it pays-off because the new is just as great as the old in this case. Chris Pope is still writing material that really stands-up perfectly alongside the songs that the original band produced. In fact, the whole set is mostly made-up of new songs, but the quality remains so high that no-one’s complaining. In fact, two of them, ‘Hey Kids, Come the Revolution’ and ‘Twenty First Century Girl’ are amongst my favourite moments this evening. A couple of cover versions (‘Join Together’ and ‘Pressure Drop’) also make a welcome appearance, together with older faves like ‘So Far Away’ and ‘The British Way of Life’, which ended the main set before a short but perfect encore of ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, new and old perfectly complimenting each other again. If you haven’t seen or heard Chris Pope & the Chords UK yet, you really need to rectify that situation as soon as you can!
GIRLS IN SYNTHESES. Shacklewell Arms, 25/2/22. Last time I saw GiS at this venue, they were supporting someone else and a large chunk of the audience departed once they had finished. This time, they’re headlining and the place is packed. Which is a good indication of their growing popularity and the fact that few bands in the UK at present can match the power and razor-sharp delivery that they present. As I’ve said before, you need to think of Big Black at their best or early Helmet to get some idea of the musical territory that they inhabit. It’s aggressive and in your face but also strangely insistent, something that you can’t ignore. After a while you’ll find yourself glued to the spot and unable to leave. Back to their regular three-piece line-up, they sound at their very best tonight and I’m sure that a few good support-slots with appropriate bands could easily win them a much wider audience. In the meantime, catch them wherever and whenever you can.