The Stranglers Still Sting: The Stranglers Live At Chicago’s Cobra Lounge, June 8, 2013

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At 10:45 PM on June 8, 2013, The Stranglers attacked the stage of Chicago’s Cobra Lounge with all the purpose and menace that indicated what those of us gathered before the tiny stage in an excited heap knew already – namely, that the legendary quartet was just as thrilled as we were that they were touring America after an absence of over twenty years.

Black-clad, inspired, and looking every inch the legends they are, The Stranglers proceeded to launch into an energetic set of fast-paced, punk-inspired rock and roll. The guys never let up and played almost 90 minutes of powerful music that took over your body and made it impossible not to move to the riffs and rhythms.

Guitarist-singer Baz Warne – who’s been with the Stranglers for 13 years now – fronted the band, taking the lead vocals founding member Hugh Cornwell used to sing. His between-song banter exuded positivity, humor, and goodwill. At one point, as he and bassist-singer JJ Burnel (an original member of the band and, if truth be told, their driving source) grabbed towels and mopped off each other’s sweaty pates, they made their brotherhood at the front of the stage obvious to all.

Warne provided other endearing moments. He held up a sign proclaiming “Blackhawks Win,” when the Chicago-based NHL franchise defeated the Los Angeles Kings to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. And he surprised us all when, at one point, he stepped off the stage to perform among the audience.

But Warne’s singing and guitar playing were what we were all there to see, and he excelled at both, burning up the stage with jaw-dropping renditions of Stranglers’ classics new and old. As he sang and riffed on “(Get a Grip) Grip (On Yourself),” “Peaches,” “Burning Up Time,” and “Nuclear Device,” The Stranglers reminded their fans both of the utter innovation of the Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes, and The Raven LPs while simultaneously convincing them that these songs retain a powerful verve that make them timeless in their live incarnation. And when Warne stepped up to the mic to handle “Mercury Rising” – the single from Giants, the band’s most recent record – the vigor just didn’t let up.

 

 

Burnel sang fewer songs than I expected, but his melodic bass playing, unsurprisingly, was on the money all night. And when he took the occasional lead vocal – as he did on “Freedom Is Insane” – he revealed what we Stranglers’ freaks know and love about his intelligence and musicianship.

Keyboardist Dave Greenfield is still the Yoda of his instrument, and he proved yet again that he’s one of the best and most underrated players on the planet. It’s silly and ineffective to focus on individual songs when discussing Greenfield because he turned every number into a veritable punk rock symphony. His playing was so wizardly that once in a while he drank from whatever filled his plastic red cup as he played some of the most complex keyboard parts I’d ever heard.

By the time The Stranglers got to “No More Heroes” – what could be their greatest song – at the end of the show, they’d convinced everyone at the Cobra that they’re not only a legendary band of yesterday but also one of the best bands of today. Every note that they played would have made their ailing and absent drummer Jet Black – the man whom Burnel has christened “the soul of The Stranglers” – beam with pride.

 

 

  • Darren Moore

    Thanks for review,watched the clips on YouTube wish I was over the pond,it looked really up close and personal..

  • Aadam

    The last time I saw them, 25 years ago or so at Metro, Jet was sick too. I guess Chicago makes him sick.

  • bash the lincoln stokie x

    Nothing suprices me with the lads typical stranglers entertainers till the end x

  • Lorne Ranger

    Great review of a truly great band…. They have a sound and style that just makes you feel alive…. and happy…

  • Tommy

    This review says exactly what we felt when we saw them in Montreal last week.
    Best band ever. Period.

  • Mitchell Smith

    Wonderful review. You nailed it. Philly had to be the low moment of the tour as we had barely 200 at the show but the fans were exuberant and made up for the vacancies. I am so glad i did not miss this tour and i will return if they ever come back again.

  • mattinblack

    dead los angeles, the plastic beaches there, theyre oh so shallow there in dead los angeles,,,,stranglers s1v

  • Georgeinblack

    Don’t forget the “Black and White” album, which offered up three tracks – including the opener and closer…

  • Guest

    Wen I saw them in London Jet played for about a third of the gig. All credit to the other guy whilst wishing Jet well.

    The big revelation for me, though – and I was only there because I was treating my brother to a Stranglers gig for his birthday – was the quality of the new songs. I downloaded Giants almost immediately afterwards. Baz is a fine singer and a brilliant front man at the gigs – the current stuff is as good as anything they’ve ever recorded. Enjoy the rest of the tour, America – this is a band at a new-found peak.