The Stranglers @ The02 Apollo
As you watch touring drummer Jim MacAulay hammer his kit in a resolute and machine like fashion throughout Saturday’s set – with Jet Black’s respiratory problems still ongoing – his rock solid presence and eye-catching vigour stood as the embodiment of this band’s resilience.
"This is the best band in the world,” Black told The Oxford Times in 2014, “and we'll carry on until we can't any more.” You only have to look at their five decade strong history for reinforcement of that unwavering panache; 17 albums, 41 singles and a touring schedule, even today, that doesn’t show any signs of slowing. And so, with MacAulay providing a robust foundation, spinning his sticks and never missing a beat, he lead the iconic punks through a two hour long set that chartered many avenues of their expansive career.
Though they do deliver their songs with that middle finger attitude that has always been the most important characterisation of punk rock, songs like Nice N’ Sleazy, which makes an early appearance, possesses a level of intelligent musicality that many of their counterparts lack. It’s aggressive and angsty, but it is also ambitious; their idiosyncratic, genre amalgamating songs giving their lengthy set a vital diversity.
Curfew, flavoured by Dave Greenfield’s dexterous keyboard playing, has the crowd in full voice alongside the crunching bass lead dissonance of Do You Wanna.
With the band dressed in all black in-front of a snow white stage set up, all amps the drum riser looking pure and ironically innocent, they beam lights of all different colours onto that blank canvas for an adrenalised (Get a) Grip (on Yourself).
Norfolk Coast is one of the heavier songs of the evening, its chorus packing a really loftiness. Jean-Jacques Burnel takes the mic for the political Freedom Is Insane while Baz Warne leads the band through the moody, spaghetti-western tinged Relentless.
Of course, they leave their massive hits – Peaches, Golden Brown and No More Heroes – to close off the night, but its elsewhere, where they boast a real depth and diligence, that they impress the most tonight.
They still show no signs of throwing in the towel and the packed audience at the 02 Apollo will tell you they don’t need to.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Charlotte Wellings