The Stranglers, Heavy Amber @ The Gov, Adelaide 18/4/2023

The Stranglers are at the sold-out Gov and the formal wear for the evening is black. Black jeans and a black T-Shirt with an appropriate band on the T-shirt. The last time I saw The Stranglers was way back in 1979 at The Apollo Stadium. It was a very LOUD concert and the only time the band spoke was to tell the police to “Fk Off”. The question is, were The Stranglers a true punk band or were they more Art/pub Rock? I mean, how many punk bands had a keyboard player for goodness’ sake? The band formed before The Sex Pistols, in 1974, in Surrey England and have released eighteen studio albums during their career.

Heavy Amber, from Melbourne are supporting The Stranglers on this Australian tour. Their sound is a mixture of 70’s heavy rock with a touch a prog, (yes, they played a flute on the opening song) and a lot of experimentation. The band captured the attention of the audience, despite I am guessing, hardly anyone would have known them. The average age of the audience was such that most would remember the 70’s, so would have known what Heavy Amber were achieving. Nice grooves, a solid driving drum beat, but the vocals were let down with a low mix in the sound. Maybe this was deliberate?

The men in black walked on stage to the sound of Waltz in Black echoing around the room. The Stranglers then kicked off the show with Toiler on the Sea with a hard driving beat followed by great executions of Duchess and Sometimes.

A pause to reflect “Fkn hell, were back in Adelaide” from vocalist/guitarist Baz Warne, who has now been in the band for twenty three years and taking over vocals when High Cornwell left in 2006. He also queried “Why are there so many mullets in Adelaide?” smiling, while rubbing his bald head.

Keyboards in a punk band? Try the brilliant intro to Relentless by new member Toby Hounsham, on his first trip to Australia. Nice ‘n’ Sleazy gave the surviving original member Jean-Jacques Burnel the chance to really show off his heavy bass skills while The Raven then gave him the chance to show he is also a pretty good vocalist.

The Stranglers may have changed members over the years, but they always stayed with the times as shown by their run of 1980’s Australian hits, Always the Sun, Skin Deep, Peaches and the big one, Golden Brown played concurrently mid set to the joy of the audience.

Their first ever single (Get a) Grip from 1977, once again gave JJ the chance to sing lead vocal. Apparently, this song was a bigger hit in New Zealand than the U.K. (and didn’t even chart in Australia).

Technical issues after Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front) gave Baz the chance to “stop and say hullo. There are a lot of you here” The band is few on words, this being only the second time they had actually spoken and acknowledged the crowd between songs.

Issue fixed and into Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Oz), perhaps the only song ever written about ex Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The song was written after their 1979 tour of Australia. Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By followed, played in a away Burt probably never expected to hear it. The set finished with Hanging Around and an explosive Tank.

Just a short break and they were back for one more onslaught with No More Heroes. A “till we meet again” from Baz and they were gone and the audience filed out into a damp Adelaide night.

Perhaps the evening is best summed up by one comment heard leaving, “They maybe a sort of tribute band with only one surviving member, but what a tribute band. Amazing”

Totally Agree!

Live Review by Geoff Jenke

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