Men in Black in Blackburn

Baz Warne, front left, with the Stranglers.

Baz Warne, front left, with the Stranglers.

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‘It’s gonna be a hot one tonight,’ announced singer/guitarist Baz Warne, after the first couple of songs.

And he was right. A small room, low ceiling and a lot of people made this a very warm and sweaty gig, with many people watching the show from the foyer.

Having said that, it was a killer gig, with The Stranglers performing most of their hits with a power and energy that puts many younger bands in their place.

‘Straighten Out’, ‘Toiler on the Sea’ and ‘Grip’ set the tone for the show as the band thundered through the set.

And they weren’t just going to give us the old stuff either, as ‘newer’ Stranglers’ favourites were also given an airing with tracks like ‘Relentless’, ‘Freedom is Insane’ and ‘Time was Once on my Side’ getting great ovations from the packed auditorium.

Baz himself was in fine form, trading insults with the crowd (for future reference – he is from Sunderland and therefore NOT a Geordie) and playing some excellent guitar solos as well as supplying the snarling vocals that most of these songs require.

There was no Jet Black this time and his protégé Jim McCauley as always put in a fine performance, and the crowd gave him a good ovation.

JJ Burnel, once recovered from the embarrassment of having Baz relate a story of how, aged six, he asked his mother for a Blackburn Rovers football shirt, prowled the stage pounding out the bass riffs; while keyboard wizard Dave Greenfield showboated as he played one-handed and drank a pint at the same time.

All the classics were played, with ‘Golden Brown’ about a third of the way in before ‘Always the Sun’ gave the crowd a chance to show off their own vocals.

‘Peaches’ was greeted with a cheer that rattled the roof and after ‘Duchess’ and ‘Hanging Around’ the band left the stage – only to return for a thundering encore of ‘No More Heroes’.

It has been so long since The Stranglers visited Blackburn – Baz commented he had never before played in the town, and he’s been in the band for 15 years.

Let’s hope it won’t be too long before they’re back (and in the Hall itself rather than The Windsor Suite.

Martin Hutchinson