The Stranglers / A Special Cambridge 50th Anniversary Celebration

Most of The Stranglers celebratory 50th anniversary UK tour is sold out, including this almost homecoming show in Cambridge. Yes, I am aware that they were formed in Guildford before the comments came flooding in. But when JJ Burnel, the last Maninblack standing from the original lineup, states that Cambridge is a homecoming show of sorts for The Stranglers as both JJ and the sadly departed Dave Greenfield lived in and around Cambridge for a number of years, you don’t argue with him.

The Stranglers

Cambridge Corn Exchange – 20 March 2024

Words and Photography: Robert Adams

The beautiful Corn Exchange fills up nicely with a mostly mature audience clad in every conceivable range of Stranglers tour shirts from years past. There is also quite a healthy representation of the under-30s present in the sold-out crowd.

At 8 pm on the dot, the support band takes to the stage resplendent in black suits and black shirts, with the guitarist sporting a gold Telecaster. Yes, The Stranglers are tonight’s support act. The first set is a selection of rarely played Stranglers songs.

They kick off proceedings with two songs from The Gospel According To The Meninblack, Just Like Nothing On Earth and Hallow to Our Man. Both tracks haven’t been seen on The Stranglers stage since the ’80s.

The Raven is next up, and JJ dedicates the song to his departed brothers, Jet Black and Dave Greenfield. It’s a touching moment.

The stage set is a perfect example of subdued elegance. A plain black backdrop with three glittering chandeliers hanging from the rig with six huge lights set across the stage and several varilights cutting swathes of colour over proceedings.

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The Stranglers let their songs do the talking for them, rather than a bells and whistles live show with video screens, lasers and explosions. Genetix, from The Raven album, gets a rare airing with “new” keyboard player Toby Hounsham taking Dave Greenfield’s lead vocal duties and doing a wonderful job.

Breathe, from the Dark Matters album, gets its live debut, and it is a thing of beauty. The first set closes with two better-known songs, Hanging Around and Down In The Sewer.

The band leave the stage for a 20-minute break after a compelling set that more than pleases the Stranglers faithful.

The Stranglers - Cambridge Corn Exchange - 20 March 2024
The Stranglers – Cambridge Corn Exchange – 20 March 2024. Photo: Robert Adams/MetalTalk

The dulcet tones of Waltzinblack herald the start of the main set, followed by Who Wants The World and Dagenham Dave. The hits come thick and fast, and you soon realise that the “punk” label the band were lumbered with is grossly misleading. If anything, The Stranglers are a fantastic rock band with few challengers.

Duchess, Peaches, Skin Deep, Always The Sun and even Golden Brown more than prove that The Stranglers are as far away from punk as a band can get. They might have had a sneering punk attitude back in the day, but musically, not one of their punk peers could hold a candle to them.

One of the many highlights of an incredible show was White Stallion from Dark Matters. The song is epic in scale and sound, and with the elegant staging, it is taken to new heights.

Something Better Change and Tank close out the set before the band returns for their obligatory encore. They play the oldest Stranglers song, Go Buddy Go, with its infectious pub rock groove before saying goodnight with a glorious run-through of No More Heroes.

Not many bands are still going after 50 years. Granted, JJ Burnel is the sole survivor from the original lineup, but that’s not his fault.

When two original members die, and original singer and guitarist Hugh Cornwell quit the band in 1990, saying he didn’t want to be playing Stranglers songs in his 60s, JJ has every right to keep The Stranglers flag flying. Cornwell is now 74, and guess what? He’s still playing Stranglers songs with his solo band.

Baz Warne tells us he’s only been in The Stranglers for 25 years, and he is a major reason that the band is not only surviving but also thriving.

Tonight, The Stranglers prove they are still more than relevant and are playing better than ever.

The Stranglers - Cambridge Corn Exchange - 20 March 2024
The Stranglers – Cambridge Corn Exchange – 20 March 2024. Photo: Robert Adams/MetalTalk

Set One

Just Like Nothing On Earth
Hallow To Our Men
The Raven
Baroque Bordello
North Winds
Princess Of The Streets
Hanging Around
Down In The Sewer

Set Two

Who Wants The World
Dagenham Dave
Time To Die
Ships That Pass In The Night
Skin Deep
Always The Sun
Golden Brown
5 Minutes
Lost Control
White Stallion
Something Better Change
Go Buddy Go
No More Heroes

Sleeve Notes

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