The Stranglers & Ruts DC at G-Live Guildford, Thursday February 3rd 2022

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Derek D’Souza

It was such a thrill to be able to witness The Stranglers emotional Guildford homecoming and for once I wasn’t down the front but up on the balcony so could fully appreciate the great lighting and sound at the G-Live. When the farewell tour was announced, I guess like many fans, I was intrigued maybe even in two minds about the decision to go ahead after the sad passing of Dave Greenfield. I didn’t know how they were going to do it, would it be an acoustic tour or would they incorporate backing tapes of Dave’s recorded organ parts? Who knew what was in store? The announcement that the band had recruited someone to play keyboards was interesting, after all Dave was a musical genius and of course a much-loved original member of The Stranglers. In the end, the band certainly made the right decision as the amount of dates marked as sold out undoubtedly proved. But let me put your fears to rest as the new keyboard player Toby Hounsham certainly excelled in what must have been a very daunting task; I mean it’s not as if he can take a back seat given that Dave’s iconic trademark keyboard sound was so integral to the very core of The Stranglers. However, Toby did a fantastic job, the highlight of which was probably the extended instrumental on “Walk on By” which was faultless. I didn’t hear one negative comment about his performance from fans either at the show or on-line and what with such a positive reaction and the band proving to be on such good form, I think they would be silly to call it a day completely.

The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Derek D’Souza

From the opening bars of “Toiler On The Sea” it’s apparent that The Stranglers sound has certainly not been comprised and neither has their energy or seething aggression, “Something Better Change” and “Sometimes” are both as vicious as when I first heard them. The band are on top form and the chemistry and friendship between JJ and Baz shines through, their on-stage banter is always a joy. Toby is introduced and it’s all handled perfectly with the right balance of respect and determination to pay tribute to Dave in the best possible way, to fully enjoy The Stranglers music. Of course, they treat us to all the hits and favourites such as “Peaches” and “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” but it’s always interesting to discover what curveballs The Stranglers will throw at us and tonight we got one of my favourites “Curfew” which was amazing and “Baroque Bordello” which was slightly less so. The band’s commercial peak is nicely covered by “Skin Deep”, “Always The Sun”, “Golden Brown” and “Strange Little Girl” but there is a bit of a lull as “Don’t Bring Harry” doesn’t quite do it for me. “Water” and “The Last Men on The Moon” from the critically acclaimed new album “Dark Matters” are both cinematic and atmospheric slow burning numbers with strains of Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks. The over-the-top disco beat of “White Stallion” with its pulsing sequencers and operatic recorded backing vocals reminds me of Sparks and is a bit out of place but “This Song” is a real modern day Stranglers classic that captures all the aggression and energy that we love. Strangely enough, I’m sitting next to football legend Stuart Pearce,  star of the “This Song” video and of course, huge Stranglers fan.

The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

“Nuclear Device” is ear-splittingly powerful and the three-song salvo of “Straighten Out”, “Duchess” and “Hanging Around” that closes the main set cranks up the excitement to fever pitch but then it’s all over. JJ and Baz come back on for an acoustic interlude of “The Lines” and an emotional “And If You Should See Dave” during which the stage lights dim to leave the keyboards bathed in blue light as Baz sings, “This is where your solo should be…” It’s a moving moment there’s no doubt about it. Then Jim and Toby return for the final encore of “Go Buddy Go” and of course “No More Heroes”, JJ climbing up onto the drum and keyboard riser to deliver that iconic bass intro. What a show and what a performance, The Stranglers never cease to amaze me with their resilience in the face of so many trials and tribulations, and long may that continue. The good news is, it probably will. Although this is billed as the farewell tour, I don’t think it will be the end of The Stranglers

The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Stranglers at Guildford G-Live – Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

Ruts DC opened the show and treated us to a stunning set, in fact, it turned out to be one of the best I’ve seen the band play and it was good to see a large crowd already in place to appreciate it. The Stranglers were obviously generous with the sound and lighting, a luxury not always afforded to support bands on large tours and Ruts DC took full advantage. Right from the first blistering riff of the classic “Something That I Said”, Leigh Heggarty’s guitar sound was immense, filling the large rather soulless auditorium with a wall of sound. Rather like Toby joining The Stranglers and having to replicate Dave Greenfield’s iconic keyboard sound, Leigh had the unenviable task of following one of Punk’s most innovative guitarists Paul Fox. Leigh captures Fox’s trademark glacial sound of “It Was Cold” and “S.U.S.” perfectly, but still adds his own character to the Ruts DC. There’s a manic rush through “You’re Just A…” another classic album track from “The Crack” which positively crackles with energy. The excellent sound means that you can really appreciate Dave Ruffy’s peerless drumming and the deep growl of Segs Jennings bass, proving that the pair are certainly one of the best rhythm sections to have emerged from Punk. They haven’t lost any of that creative chemistry either, in fact Segs nails yet another killer bass riff on the slow burning and atmospheric new song “Born Innocent” which promises much from the next album. Segs says he usually hates it when a band announces they are going to play a new song, but he need not have worried as “Born Innocent” definitely hits the spot and certainly gets an encouraging response from the crowd. 

Ruts DC – photo by Retro Man Blog

They run through a perfectly plotted set-list that’s heavy on Ruts classics, no doubt bearing in mind they are playing to a partisan Stranglers crowd, so there’s nothing from the “Animal Now” or “Rhythm Collision Vol. 1 or 2” albums. Instead we do get a wonderful “Jah War”, “Staring At The Rude Boys”, “West One (Shine On Me)” and the crowd singalong “In A Rut”. They did play a great version of “Kill The Pain” from their latest studio LP, the critically acclaimed “Music Must Destroy”, which sits easily alongside all those familiar classics. In fact, it’s such a fantastic album that I’m not surprised when they choose to close the set with “Psychic Attack” instead of “Babylon’s Burning” and it goes to show that the band are far removed from being a nostalgia act. Ruts DC are going from strength to strength and if you can’t make any of their shows with The Stranglers then don’t worry, the band will be out and about on their own headlining “Faces In The Sky” tour in November/December and you can check out all the details at Ruts DC web-site here.

Ruts DC – photo by Retro Man Blog

You can hear a wonderful re-working of a classic Ruts song taken from Ruts DC excellent new “Electracoustic” album in the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast here. Leigh Heggarty also has his own Blog, the always entertaining „Leigh’s Mad World of Guitars“. Our Retrosonic Podcast with Leigh is still available at our archives on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or you can stream/download directly from our SoundCloud site below.

Retrosonic Podcast · Lockdown Lowdown Episode 2: Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC

The Stranglers farewell tour with support from Ruts DC continues and you can find out more information at The Stranglers official web-site here. Top two photos copyright and courtesy of Derek D’Souza, for more information on Derek’s photography please check out this web-site here.

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