Saturday, 4 October 2008
There were glaring, pumped-up thugs walking bad-temperedly through the crowd last night at The Stranglers’ gig at Dubai’s Irish Village. And they were the security team, not the punters. In fact, probably the most genuine ‘70s touch to the evening was the good old fashioned ‘in your face’ heavy-handed security. This was quite amusing, given that the vast majority of the crowd was far too middle aged and well-heeled to even think about causing trouble. But the evening’s only stage diver seemed to get a really tough time of it from the security boys.
The Irish Village was selling hooch in glass bottles, an amazing thing to see at a Stranglers gig. Bet they don't do that in the UK venues!!!
At about 8.45, a complete dunderhead from Coast FM took to the stage and managed to alienate the entire crowd in a matter of seconds. Babbling excitedly about The Stranglers being an ‘80s band (which they most certainly are not) and trying to organise crowd cheering games, he managed to destroy much of the atmosphere of joyful excitement in the packed venue and provoke mass irritation instead. Finally, to jeers of ‘off off off’, the goon slunk off the stage and a gig organising type announced the departure of the ‘face for radio’ and the imminent arrival of the band.
At the last minute, word went round the crowd that drummer Jet Black (who is, incidentally, in his ‘70s now) was ill and his drum tech would be playing in his place. So the idiot and the bad news didn’t really set this all up well.
Taking to the stage to the sound of ‘Meninblack’, the group launched straight into a pumping ‘Toiler on the Sea’, and suddenly all was right with the world. We were in for a wonderful evening of high energy, brilliant music and I spent the next two hours grinning like a maniac in a sea of moving, dancing, happy people. The group did a brilliant run through a serious back catalogue, ‘Grip’, ‘Peaches’ (“Oh no, I’ve missed the charabanc! I’m gonna be stuck here the whole summer, well what a bummer! I can think of a lot worse places to be, like being stuck in a back room at the Irish Village waiting for some fat twat to get off the stage” got singer Baz Warne a huge cheer); Golden Brown (not my favourite track by any means, but a massive crowd pleaser), Nice and Sleazy and Tank through to Always the Sun. In all they only played one new track, which surprised me: I’d been expecting Norfolk Coast at least.
A cheering, dancing crowd was the most animated audience I’ve ever seen at a Dubai gig, but then they were in seasoned hands as the group played a tight, driving high energy, set. They’re a great live act, singer and guitarist Baz Warne is energetic, good-natured and very bald. Burnel, the near-legendary karate kid bassist, prowls the stage, always a powerful, brooding presence (although he was.. gasp... smiling a lot) pumping out those punching, rolling basslines supported by spot on drumming from the drum tech doing a masterful job of filling in for Black. And, of course, the oddly Asiatic face of a Dave Greenfield pokes up behind a trio of massive swelling organs: the keyboards that have always been so central to The Stranglers’ sound swirling and driving the pace throughout the night.
I couldn’t have asked for more, except perhaps for them to keep going all night. I wanted Genetix, Down in the Sewer, Raven and... well, just more.
But I was a happy little bear and all the other little bears with me in the bear garden were happy too.
This date was the first in a long tour: November will see the band playing across the UK and then Australia in December, followed by a European tour in January and February. If you can, get to see them: The Stranglers are sounding better than they ever have before and you’ll have a brilliant night of it.
*PS. Yes, the picture was taken with my phone. In the old days, hippies and saddoes used to wave their lighters. Now we wave our phones.... *sigh*
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