The Stranglers at O2 Academy Bristol 21.2.22 with The Ruts supporting
Headed cross country to Bristol on this Monday night for my second gig on The Stranglers ‘last full UK tour’ and today it’s bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel’s birthday – his 70th. Hard to believe.
I couldn’t have imagined either of us being in a Bristol nightclub some 45 years after playing the No More Heroes album on my mum and dad’s box gramaphone…tennis racket in hand, strumming away.
I’ve spent many happy times dancing around on one leg playing an air-bass guitar. This included doing so outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris in tribute to JJ’s solo album – a mixed bag – Euroman Cometh.
Through the decades of Stranglers gigs I did fit in one JJ solo performance: The Union Chapel in North London on 3 June 2000… and evening of songs and stories. It’s even available on YouTube: JJ at Union Chapel. I think that was a bit of a one off.
Back to this evening: although a reasonbly inconvenient trek, Bristol is inviting and gets most tours. In recent years I’ve been to the O2 Academy here several times: my venue blog. The recent Guildford Stranglers gig also included my Meninblack nostalgia.
It’s a sell out tonight and we are queueing in the O2 ‘queue jumping’ lane about 15 minutes after the doors opened (met up with the Plymouth guys this evening). The early rails are taken though when we get in but still a place on one of the raised little platforms by the stairs – all ready for The Ruts.
Another compact set of classics from The Ruts, winding up with Babylon’s Burning. (Link to my phone clip.) I don’t particularly like waving my phone about but it’s quite handy on this raised platform. One of the tallest men in Bristol thought it handy as well and stood just on the front of it 🙄
The chorus of Happy Birthday started at the first pause after The Stranglers came on. The last original Strangler on stage, for his 70th birthday; doing what he’s done for nearly 50 years.
The same set as Guildford bar two songs. Grip is a welcome addition mid-set.
Hanging Around is a paricular favourite off mine and out came the phone. (My YouTube clip.)
The added attraction of this venue is the proximity to the stage that everyone has – side on stage and the venue is not that deep. All in all a more intimate gig and easier for a few snaps.
At the end of the main set,the first encore, JJ and Baz grab stools for a couple of quieter tracks from the excellent new album Dark Matters. Lines, and then And If You Should See Dave. Hugely emotional. JJ’s voice cracks when he speaks about this one. ‘It’s hard… it’s hard when you lose your mate you’ve been playing with for over 45 years’. You can feel the audience sink and then will him to hang on in there….and he continues.
Hats off to the band for cracking on with the Dave Greenfield memorial album – keyboardist Dave died of Covid in 2020 when they were half way through recording the album. And then there is Toby Hounsham who was recruited to try and fill the legendary Greenfield’s boots, or at least get us through the tour. He’s done a storming job.
And, as in Guildford, the final encores are the same. Back to where it all started with Go Buddy Go and then the epic No More Heroes. This is proving to be an amazing tour – many sell out crowds. Dave Greenfield mourned and respected. There won’t be another one like this but the legend of the Meninblack will continue. I’ve got one more Stranglers gig booked this year – Rebellion Festival – but I’m very tempted to find one more date on this tour.
Towards the end JJ strips to the waist (top down 😁) and celebrates his birthday in style. This was another top Stranglers gig. Here’s to the next time.