Posted February 23, 2022 by vintagerock
Well here I am. Back at the City Hall with The Stranglers. So many memories. Happy days again, yet tinged with mixed emotions, some of elation, some of sadness. So many different perspectives: the venue, the band, myself, family. I will explain each of these below.
The Venue. Newcastle City Hall is almost like a second home to me. I have seen so many concerts there; probably several hundred, maybe over 1000. My first was back in early 1971 when I saw Iron Butterfly supported by Yes and Dada (who included the late, sadly missed, superb vocalist Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks who, of course, went on to much greater success in Vinegar Joe, again with Robert Palmer, and as a soloist). Soon I saw the Rolling Stones there, a few weeks later, and then many more bands over the years including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more over a 50+ year period. For the first time they had somehow managed to remove all of the seats from the downstairs area, allowing a massive crowd of Stranglers fans to jump around and have fun to the music. It was very strange, yet refreshing, to be part of a very different experience in a very differently configured City Hall.
The Band. This is The Stranglers Final Full UK Tour. The tour has been postponed for some time partly due to Covid and partly because of the sad passing of founder member Dave Greenfield; he of the great swirling, driving keyboards that underpinned, and led, all of those Stranglers classics. At one point the tour was almost cancelled but fan demand persuaded the members to continue in tribute to Dave Greenfield’s massive contribution to the band and their music. Only Jean-Jacques Burnel remains from the original lineup. Drummer Jet Black retired some years ago. Lead singer and songwriter Hugh Cornwell left many years ago, and after a few line-up changes including one with both a vocalist and a guitarist, his position is filled by local Sunderland lad Baz Warne with Baz taking over vocal and guitar duties and becoming the band’s main front man. The Stranglers were the first punk band to play Newcastle City Hall in 1977, a concert which I attended and was absolutely stupendous. Later in 1977 they returned and after some altercations between Hugh, Jean-Jacques and the bouncers which ended up in a massive stage invasion The Stranglers were banned from the City Hall for a number of years. But the soul of the band remains as does the power of the music. Nothing is diminished, we are overwhelmed by a constant barrage of classic songs: right back to the start with “Grip” and “Peaches”, through the massive hits “Sweet Little Girl” and “Golden Brown” and many, many more along the way. This is The Stranglers at their best and just as I remember them from the many times I have seen them over the years. If this was to be the last time I experience this band, it couldn’t be any better. Jean-Jacques is a joy to see, quietly leading the band, his bass playing as booming and driving as ever. Baz has a bit fun with the Newcastle crowd, in terms of the Geordies/Makem rivalry. There are lots of encores and lots of dancing and moshing down at the front. For the first encore Jean-Jacques and Baz return as an acoustic duo and treat us to a couple of beautiful, more subdued, songs. The pace and volume then return for the second encore and the band finish, triumphant. The crowd go home overjoyed at the experience.
Myself. Even after a few years in a wheelchair I am still getting used to the experience of being different to, and separate from, the majority of the crowd. However there are some benefits. I am sitting with my carer and my sister-in-law (more of this below) perched on a disabled ramp up above the crowd, with a great view over the heads of the jumping, swirling, moshing, crazy crowd below us.
Family. In 1977 I was accompanied to the Stranglers concert by my late wife, Marie. We took along her sister, now my sister-in-law, Elaine. Elaine was at the time a young teenager, excited by the new music known as punk. She is now one of my carers, but on this occasion came along to see The Stranglers as my guest. This was the first time she had seen them since that concert back in 1977. So 45 years later she was experiencing The Stranglers again. Her verdict was that they were just as good as they were “back in the day”! Having Elaine with me again, brought back lots of memories and mixed emotions. It is strange the twists and turns one experiences in one’s life.
I must not forget to give credit to the support act, Ruts DC; who are basically The Ruts without their sadly departed singer. We arrived late, but in time to see them perform their hit songs “I’m in a Rut” and “Babylon’s Burning”. Both of these were very credible versions and it was great to hear them again.So, to summarise. A night of very mixed emotions but overall one I greatly enjoyed. The last time I saw The Stranglers was in a muddy field at Glastonbury, once again with my late wife Marie. This time was probably the last, but was another excellent experience. Overall a happy night.
Many thanks to my carer Jackie for taking the photographs and doing a great job too.
Setlist: Toiler on the Sea; Something Better Change; Sometimes; Water ; Skin Deep; This Song; Nice ‘n’ Sleazy; Don’t Bring Harry; Strange Little Girl; Always the Sun ; Peaches; Golden Brown The Last Men on the Moon; (Get a) Grip (on Yourself) ; Curfew; White Stallion; Relentless; Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus); Walk On By; Straighten Out; Duchess; Hanging Around
Encore: The Lines; And If You Should See Dave…
Encore 2: Theme From Get Carter; Tank; No More Heroes
10 responses to this post.
- Posted by Alun Rees on February 23, 2022 at 4:42 pmI really enjoy your gig reviews. I was fortunate to spend 5 years studying dentistry in the building diagonally opposite Newcastle City Hall and attended as many gigs as I could there in the period 1973-78. Fantastic memories, thanks for sharing. Your reviews, especially this last one, have a bitter sweet quality and reflect the changes that have taken place in your life. Long may you keep sharing.
- Posted by vintagerock on February 23, 2022 at 6:13 pmThanks Alun I’m sure we must have been at some of the same concerts at the City Hall. Happy days. I hope my reviews strike the right balance between my own feelings and the joy I still get from rock music. Cheers Peter
Good to know they’ll still good. Saw them first in early 1976 in the Students Union small hall at Huddersfield Poly just before their first album Rattus Norvigicus (sp?) came out. Awesome gig. Wouldn’t call them punk – I remember High Cornwall saying if there was any ‘gobbing’ (dreadful habit) they’d walk off. Too many shades of the Doors, the Pirates and some very clever informed lyrics to be called punk. Excellent stuff.
- Posted by vintagerock on February 23, 2022 at 6:09 pmHi Alistair thanks for your memories. Yes I agree that the Stranglers were never straightforward punk, but always a great band and still are. Happy days Peter
- Posted by TerriersFan on February 27, 2022 at 11:20 amStrange that you should mention the “gobbing” incident. I saw them at Scarborough Penthouse in February 1977 and on that occasion I recall Cornwell ‘masturbating’ his throat and ultimately spitting into the assembled throng which he thought was hilarious but left me hugely unimpressed.
And, like you, I have always considered them far too talented to be classed as ‘punk’.
You can read my review of that gig here…
- Posted by vintagerock on February 27, 2022 at 12:52 pmHi Roger just like the Middlesbrough Rock Garden, Scarborough Penthouse was THE place to go in the 70s! Yes Hugh Cornwell did exactly the same thing at the early gigs I saw. I also thought it was pretty disgusting and over-the-top. Thanks for your review. Always good to read your memories. For me, the Stranglers remain a classic band! Happy days Peter
Posted by David Wilson on February 23, 2022 at 8:29 pm
Excellent write-up, thank you. I first saw The Stranglers back in probably 1979 and saw them loads over the next few years but then didn’t bother once Hugh left, to me they wouldn’t be the same. I then went back late 80’s at Gateshead Stadium and my view was reinforced, with a different singer they just weren’t the same. However, with Dave’s passing I started thinking just how many more chances would I have? Then their new single from the latest album was superb, a proper blast from the past so I decided to go and only bought a ticket about a month ago. What a decision! They were brilliant, and as you say a mixture of old, new, classics, hits, it had everything.
As for the venue, as a young punk I hated the City Hall due to the seating and not being able to get down the front. I saw Siouxsie walk off stage because of it, I saw other shows less subdued than normal, because of it. But with the new configuration, and I’ve now been to a few gigs with the seats removed, it’s become a first-class venue for all types of bands, just wish it had been possible all those years ago.
- Posted by vintagerock on February 24, 2022 at 12:28 pmThanks David Glad you enjoyed the review. Yes the Stranglers were excellent and the new configuration of the City Hall works well. Happy days Peter
One of my favourites from the early days. I couldn’t get enough of them, and was lucky to see them at Fort Regent, St Helier, in the early 80’s. JJB, inspirational, and of course Hugh Cornwell. I was, I think, lucky to come of age between 1972-, continuing… Witnessing Punk Rock at boarding school was awesome, and the genres of music blasting out of our competing study bedrooms.
- Posted by vintagerock on March 20, 2022 at 2:30 pmYes punk and the 70s were a special time! Happy days Ned best wishes Peter