Dr. Feelgood are one of very few bands that can claim to pre-date tonights headline act and while they’re not able to boast any original members, the decidedly British take on Rhythm & Blues still holds up. At times their pub rock performance is a bit dwarfed by the spacious O2 stage and requests such as ‘bounce’ are perhaps better directed at a more spritely crowd. However no encouragement is needed to get the Bristol audience singing along with hits such as ‘Down To The Doctor’s’ and the devilishly catchy ‘Milk and Alcohol’.
By the sets conclusion, you can barely move through the venue, not that anyone would want to, the headliners are about to go on…
The Stranglers are one of the longest running and most accomplished punk bands of all time, their remarkable 45+ year career has included a stunning 23 UK top 40 singles, and 17 top 40 albums. Having already enjoyed such an incredibly successful career, some bands may choose to go easy on the touring, but not The Stranglers. They were out on the road again in March for their ‘Back On The Tracks’ tour.
With a band as long lasted as The Stranglers, line up changes are inevitable however original members: bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel and keyboardist Dave Greenfield haven’t lost a step and as the set begins with ‘Tank’, the opening track from 1978’s Black And White, it’s Greenfield’s iconic Keyboard sound that immediately catches the ear. Putting together a set with such an extensive back catalogue must be a huge undertaking and it’ll never be possible to please everyone but this tours offering seamlessly combines songs spanning the several decades of the bands career.
As expected the hits are all there, ‘Peaches’, ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘Golden Brown’ are all greeted with room shaking sing alongs from the sold out O2 crowd. Space is also made for some lesser heard tracks such as ‘Unbroken’ and ‘Hey! (Rise Of The Robots)’ as well as some new material: ‘The Last Men On The Moon’, ‘Payday’ and ‘This Song’ all give a taste of what’s to come from The Stranglers highly anticipated 18th Studio album.
Many audience members have followed the band since the early stages of their career and there’s a palpable sense of connection between band and crowd, a feeling highlighted in the joyous singing of Happy Birthday to Dave Greenfield who is one day away from celebrating his 70th. The small banner hung on his keyboard is a characteristically modest celebration of one of the finest careers in punk rock.
The Stranglers continue to pack out shows and entertain audiences the world over, with a strong line up and new music on the way one of punks founding fathers still have plenty to offer in 2019.
Photography: Megan Threader