Live Review: The Stranglers / Ruts DC – O2 Academy, Glasgow 29.01.2022

Raymond Thomson

The Stranglers have played a venue in Glasgow every time they toured the UK. That means, for the past 45 years, it has been a main stay for the band and there’s a reason for that, if you can make it in Glasgow, you can make it anywhere! It’s a tough nut to crack but ultimately worth it. The tour had been re-scheduled twice leading up to the gig and Covid took its toll on the band. Losing their keyboard player Dave Greenfield in May 2020 could have resulted in a premature end to the band but to honour Dave’s memory, they took the difficult decision to carry on. The tour has sold out many dates so far and this resulted in an additional date being added to Glasgow. The Stranglers have never really needed an excuse to tour but having a new critically acclaimed album to share with their “family” had given it more credibility than merely touring for touring’s sake either to celebrate an anniversary or play their greatest hits.

The Stranglers have had some weird and wonderful support bands join them throughout the years but possibly the best of those were signed up for the 2022 Dark Matters Tour. Ruts DC have headlined many tours, but they have a long history with the band, so they were the perfect choice. It’s not that long ago, the two bands toured the UK together so its mutually beneficial for them to kick off some form of normality as the UK tries to recover from the lockdown.

The O2 Academy was nearly full by the time Ruts DC came on stage which is rare for a support band and testament to their popularity. The band kicked off with one of their better-known singles “Something That I Said”. Another early tune quickly followed as “SuS” brought the crowd alive as the iconic tune had Leigh Heggarty thrashing his black Gibson Les Paul during the chorus. The dynamic of the song shows off what the band do best. There’s a new album in the pipeline for the band in 2022 and a tour is being planned for later in the year but meantime, the set in Glasgow was made up of the seminal songs from their first two albums supplemented by two from their last album “Music Must Destroy”. One of these newer songs “Kill the Pain” is a mid-set regular. There was a brand new tune, “Born Innocent” played right before “Jah War” and it was well received. The band played two of their popular chart singles “Staring at the Rude Boys” and “Babylon’s Burning” but it was “Psychic Attack” that brought the evenings to a close. Seg’s Jennings was resplendent as ever and the drumming of Dave Ruffy belies his years as he seems to find the energy to drive the band from the back. The guitar playing from Leigh Heggarty is a marvel to behold. Judging by their relish still to perform, there’s plenty life left in the band.

“Waltzinblack” always signifies the arrival of The Stranglers. A second night in Glasgow and a great number of familiar faces on the barrier to see the last remaining original member of the band take the stage. The set list often changes when the band are on a full tour but tonight, “Toiler on The Sea” remained as the opener. The iconic bass driven song from the bands third album “Black and White” is revered as one of their greatest songs. It’s a chance for Tony Hounsham to introduce himself to those onlookers who had not seen him in action. Toby cut his teeth in a tribute band where he had learned the material and now revered as Dave’s disciple. There may have been a massive expectation to not just fill in for Dave but to do his legacy justice and he did that handsomely. Toby faithfully reproduced Dave’s phenomenal keyboard playing and put any concerns the crowd had at ease. Next up was “Something Better Change” followed by “Sometimes” this rounded offa trio of songs from the first threealbums. The hard-core element of the crowd was already bouncing. It’s not all about the old songs though as “Water” fromthe new album “Dark Matters” showed how the band have embraced their iconicsound. The song is already a regular in the set having been written four years ago and aired on a few tours already. The bands fourth studio album, “The Raven”, provided a good number of songs in the set and “Don’t Bring Harry” got a rare outing and it went down surprisingly well. The sound was stark with Toby’s meticulous keyboard playing backed by Burnel’s delicate vocals. The hits from the 80’s have often been treated as a toilet break but “Strange Little Girl” and “Always the Sun” went someway to breaking that mis-conception judging by the sing-a-long. “Peaches” always gives Baz the opportunity to unleash his humour on the audience when he ad-lib’s to “I can think of a lot worse places to be…”, “The Ukrainian Border” replaced the original lyric much to the amusement of the on-lookers. As JJ quietly started the bass intro to “Baroque Bordello” you could feel the growing acknowledgement from the crowd as another track from the popular fourth album was played. The song showed Toby could also fill in for Dave on vocals. 

“White Stallion” gave the band the opportunity to show off the best of the new album. The heavy electronic synth and bass reverberated the entire venue as JJ spread his arms wide to engage the crowd. The bands dark side is always simmering and “Curfew”, brought back some nostalgia as JJ sang “Go to Scotland, no obligation”. A sight to behold as the crowd acknowledged the inclusion of the song in the set as a sign that band were still in touch with their fans. The band delivered a memorable performance of “Nuclear Device” and “Straighten Out”. “Walk on by” reminded the audience that the musicianship on show was considerable as the band used every ounce of talent to play the popular Dionne Warrick classic. As Toby and Baz took turns to solo, JJ’s bass runs were under pinned by Jim Macauley’s hard hitting drumming. Baz continued to show his flair with an unusual looking Burns guitar as the band ended the main set with “The Last Men on the Moon” from “Dark Matters”.  After a brief stage blackout, JJ and Baz returned to sit on two stools to play “Lines” and “If You Should See Dave”. There was a slight technical hitch as the pair played through the first song as if they were miming. No front of house PA and the in-ear monitors did not alert them to that fact. As the crowd waved and pointed at them, it wasn’t until the end of the short song that either of them realised what had happened. Baz too the chance to do a little dance to make light of the situation. The quickly got back on track and finally splayed through “Lines”. JJ took the opportunity to pay tribute to his dear old friend who had passed prior to playing “And If You Should See Dave”. It’s a poignant song and was respectfully received by the entire crowd as they took a few precious moments to remember Dave Greenfield. The two front men took their leave from the stage once again only to return moments later to ask the crowd if they had a preference of encore, they teased the sell-out crowd with their first single “Grip” or the iconic “Tank” from “Black and White”. As the crowd cheered loudly for both, it would appear that “Grip” won the battle but not to disappoint anyone, “Tank” swiftly followed. After the riotous applause, JJ walked up some steps on the rear stage riser right below the massive Stranglers logo and he ripped into “No More Heroes”. This gave the audience their last chance of the evening to savour The Stranglers before they waved goodbye to Glasgow for what might be the last time. Time will tell but there’s still another 20 dates left on the tour if you’re able to locate a venue that still has a ticket. With so many sell out dates, it bodes well for the band and the new material has rewarded the faithful for sticking with them.

Find out more via the bands Website or Facebook

Tickets for the rest of the tour available here

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