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Live Review: The Stranglers @ The Tivoli


Despite it being a Monday night, Brisbane’s The Tivoli was jam-packed with a generation of 1,500 passionate punters with shaved heads in ill-fitting black jeans who hadn’t lost their ability to pogo. It was the surest sign that yet another overseas super group from yesteryear had made a rare visit to our shores. Long-running stalwarts of 70s and 80s British rock, The Stranglers haven’t graced Brisbane with their presence since supporting Blondie back in 2012. Now armed with a career’s worth of classics, The Stranglers were back, dusting off tracks ranging from their 1977 debut ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ to the 16 epic albums that have followed.

The room was instantly lifted up in a roar and entire The Tivoli shook as frontman and guitarist Baz Warne entered the stage followed by bassist Jean-Jaceues Burnel, keyboardist Dave Greenfield, and touring drummer Jim McCaulay. Diving straight into the 1978 hit Toiler On The Sea from their third studio album ‘Black And White’, the crowd was instantly ecstatic. “Geez, everyone’s pretty buzzed for a Monday night” shouted Warne in his thick Wearside drawl. “But really, isn’t every Australian always drunk?,” he laughed.


The set list included all the expected hits: Always The Sun, Skin Deep, and many more. Every song was met with rapturous applause, every lyric belted out by a rag, tag and bobtail bunch of fans, many of whom have been with the band right from the very start. The Stranglers then ripped into I’ve Been Wild, which despite being one of the band’s newer numbers, has a big, brash chorus befitting any Strangers classic.

Next, the lights went up around The Tivoli, bathing the venue in a warm golden glow – everyone knows what’s coming, but the iconic harpsichord intro of Golden Brown was enough to make even the most hardened Stranglers fan’s hairs stand on end. The song leaped and jolts between time signatures from phrase to phrase, an ode both to the tangled mind of a desperate heroin addiction and his fascination with a mysterious temptress. It’s long been a heralded their greatest accomplishment, and with good reason.

The Stranglers have an energy and freshness that defies their years. A 24-song set is barely heard of in a venue more used to staging bands at the opposite end of their careers. Nevertheless, they rattled through it at breakneck speed. Their vibrancy is backed by a stack of strip lights befitting of a Glastonbury headliner. It’s some departure from the potless, lo-fi punk aesthetic of 1977, but then The Stranglers always existed on the softer side of punk. That 3-chord motif doesn’t really apply to players of this quality and they remain as sharp today.


The inevitable highlight was the idiosyncratic Peaches, which was their finest moment on the night with a lapping synth riff and later guitar break that was perfection. However, maybe songs like Nice‘N’Sleazy belong to their age. Either way, The Stranglers hold a unique space on the original punk scene – a band that has incorporated different genres, brilliant playing and longevity.

The set was rounded out with Lost Control, Duchess and finally Tank. But with time in hand, there’s just room for an encore featuring Walk On By, All Day And All Of The Night, and No More Heroes. By this stage, the bass was tuned to earth trembling levels. It marked the concert rendition and the set then closes in a raucous implosion of noise. The Stranglers definitely lived up to it’s billing. All the hits were present and delivered with punk precision for maximum impact. Into their fifth decade, they still know how to bring down the house. Long may they continue to do so!

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