Hugh Cornwell, Auckland NZ, 2019

Hugh Cornwell
3rd May 2019
Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review and photography by Sarah Kidd.

Hugh Cornwell descended upon Auckland’s Powerstation last night as part of his Monster tour, which promised to deliver an evening of both his solo work and of course Stranglers hits that his name will forever be synonymous with.

Local duo The MurderChord however were the first to consecrate the stage with their idiosyncratic brand of ‘punkrock on a piano’. Fronted by Dave Hine of Missing Teeth on vocals and a keyboard that shook harder than grans jelly, The MurderChord also featured Sims Ross –  who those in the know would recognise from his time with Yebiisu on drums.

Smashing out a set that was both humorous as it was punk, Dave and Sims demonstrated just how well a duo can fill the space around them; tracks such as ‘I am Dave, He is Sims’ self-explanatory in their delivery with tongue firmly in cheek. Sage advice to a former flatmate was expounded in ‘Fill Up The Tin’, Hine pausing periodically to invite people to come further forward, kiwi audiences often frustratingly hugging the shadows during support acts.

In spite of it The MurderChord just became more frenetic as the end drew near, Hines fingerless gloved hands gesticulating with purpose during a fierce version of ‘Pale Blue Dot’ that elicited cheers from those who were fans and people who knew a good thing when they damn well heard it. Brilliant in both every sense and definition of the word.

Splitting the evening into two sets, Hugh Cornwell ambled out in his usual black attire, nothing less expected from punks Dark Lord himself. Accompanied by a two piece band – Cornwell often stating that he loves the sound and dynamics of a trio – they wasted no time in getting straight into it, ‘Evel’ from his latest and critically acclaimed solo album Monster sliding into ‘Leave Me Alone’ and the rather London sound of ‘I Want One of Those’ from his Totem and Taboo album.

Staring down the barrel of his seventieth birthday, Cornwell’s vocals have lost nothing, the familiarity of them embraced by the audience, his guitar solo’s where he would step back from the microphone and immerse himself in his instrument watched with a mix of respect and satisfaction.

Cornwell’s accompanying musicians were excellent, Scottish drummer Windsor McGilvray who has worked with artists such as Blondie and John Cooper Clarke holding down percussion while the exceptional bass playing and backing vocals of Pat Hughes of Headnoise and The Disoriented gave tracks such as ‘Bilko’ and ‘Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit’ the extra oomph they needed in the live setting. Finishing on the quirky ‘Duce Coochie Man’ Cornwell ushered in a short intermission promising to return with “something you might have heard before”.

To be fair while the crowd were attentive during the first set, it was the second they were all waiting for, Cornwell’s legacy with The Stranglers still his biggest drawcard despite having left the band almost three decades ago.

‘Always The Sun’ was like a shot of adrenaline to the room, the audience immediately beginning to dance as they heartily joined in on singing the chorus before the tantilizing dirty bass line of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’ permeated the room. Where as the first set saw Cornwell provide interesting anecdotes as introductions to tracks such as ‘Monster’ written about the creator of Dynamation and inspirator to George Lucas, Ray Harryhausen, the second half of the evening was all about the music, each Stranglers track celebrated by a crowd thirsty for more.

Despite the wealth of talent on stage, some tracks suffered from the lack of performers; ‘Golden Brown’ while still charming was left wanting of the memorable harpsichord style keys; ‘No More Heroes’ fortunately storming in afterwards and keeping the flow buoyant.

Not one for encores Cornwell jokingly asked the fans where their flag of surrender was, his faux disbelief of the audience not yet having enough of Stranglers songs prompting him to announce with a smile that instead of retreating backstage for a cup of tea that they would deliver a couple more to close the night; ‘Tank’ taking everyone back to 1978.

Nostalgia the winning hand of the night.

Were you there at the Powerstation to witness this alternative post-punk / punk rock show? Or have you seen Hugh Cornwell perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Setlist:
  1. Pure Evel
  2. Leave Me Alone
  3. I Want One Of Those
  4. Monster
  5. Stuck In Daily Mail Land
  6. Get Involved
  7. The Most Beautiful Girl In Hollywood
  8. The Prison’s Going Down
  9. Bilko
  10. Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
  11. Mothra
  12. Duce Coochie Man
  13. Always The Sun
  14. Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
  15. Peaches
  16. Strange Little Girl
  17. Golden Brown
  18. No More Heroes
  19. No Mercy
  20. Skin Deep
  21. 5 Mintues
  22. Grip
  23. Goodbye Toulouse
  24. Tank
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