A packed venue showed that nostalgia for the ’70s was still strong in the air. Looking out over the sea of bald heads and leather jackets, it quickly became apparent that the audience of the sold-out gig was almost entirely male, and with very few exceptions (yours truly included) all over the age of 50. This resulted in some accusatory stares and multiple remarks of “you’re so f*cking young”. That said, it was quite possibly one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic audiences to ever fill the O2 Academy: highlights including an impromptu polka with 60 year old Phil the Electrician.
The Stranglers weren’t the only ’70s band to appear on the O2 Academy’s stage. Edinburgh Punks, The Rizillos, supported after returning to the music scene from a 37 year break. However, the level of energy and skill that they exuded hardly led one to think that they had been on hiatus for nearly 40 years. Fay Fife’s vocals slammed over the audience and her uninhibited dancing was like no other. She waded into the crowd and waved in our faces without a hitch in her voice.
The Rizillos were far from the mediocre support usually expected at gigs and I have never seen an audience so engaged (nor a gig so full) before the main act has even appeared. It would have been worth turning out for them alone. They even dedicated a cover of Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ to a woman in the crowd who had apparently been there every night, much to the audience’s delight.
When The Stranglers’ appeared on stage, the audience appeared to collectively decide to revert back to being 20 and the room was filled with pogo-ing 60 year olds. The ageing punks opened with ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, which includes the warped, funfair-like music that is so characteristic of the band. Jean-Jacques Burnel (lead vocals) has retained his trademark drawl, now with the face to match his coarse “old geezer” voice. Throughout the gig, Dave Greenfield (keyboard) looked blissfully happy, occasionally playing with one hand while he sipped his beer with the other, pinky raised.
‘Golden Brown’ was met with a warm reception from the crowd, especially when brilliantly tacky lights were brought out in full swing, causing golden speckles to spin around the room. When it came to ‘Always The Sun’, everyone raised their fists and drinks in the air and sang along word-for-word. The audience demographic made for a refreshing change as few were glued to smart phones and were instead wholly immersed in the performance. Although, there was the added danger of getting your hair trapped in someone’s cuff-links, which is not a danger I’ve experienced at a gig before.
Between songs the band bantered with the audience, even showing us their collection of underwear thrown at them by female fans. This led to Burnel using the phrase “pantie bucket” and a joke about the resulting soup, which I would not care to relive.
The crowd began to thin slightly towards the end of the gig as everyone remembered that they were grown-ups with real lives. However, the room was still packed as The Stranglers delivered an encore of ‘Peaches’ and ‘Walk On By’. The band were even enticed out for a second encore that included ‘Go Buddy Go’ and ‘No More Heroes’, both of which were met with boundless enthusiasm from the audience.
It is safe to say that even after over 40 years The Strangler’s know how to put on a good show.