[Originally published by On:Yorkshire Magazine: http://www.on-magazine.co.uk/arts/music/live-reviews/the-stranglers-leeds-o2-academy/]
Fresh off the back of their incredibly successful, fully sold-out Ruby Anniversary Tour in 2014 The Stranglers are back for their 19-date UK ‘March On’ tour. As promised by lead singer Baz Warne when I spoke to him before the tour, the band really were playing better than they ever had before at the O2 Academy in Leeds.
With no new material to promote, The Stranglers are simply gigging because they love it – and it showed. Their energy and camaraderie on-stage always gives their performances an edge over other bands and it was at an all-time high at the O2.
JJ Burnel and Baz are the embodiment of cool frontmen, but they’re not afraid to have some fun on stage by joking around and trying to out-‘dance’ each other. The audience always love Dave Greenfield’s party trick of downing his drink whilst playing inexplicably complicated keyboard parts with one hand. Drummer Jet Black’s absence (presumably due to illness) was a real shame and it was never acknowledged by the rest of the band during the gig, leading to a few of the long-term fans chanting his name throughout the evening. The replacement drummer (who was never ‘introduced’ either) was absolutely fantastic though and nailed all of the tracks very impressively.
With barely a pause for breath during their set they thundered through 25 songs from their entire back catalogue including tracks that don’t often appear on their set list. As they have such a dedicated following with many fans attending almost all of their UK gigs every tour they like to mix it up to entertain the hardcore fans as well as newer faces.
Their seamless transitions between old and new tracks perfectly demonstrates why the band’s huge popularity has endured for over 40 years. My personal highlight was, after seeing them live a fair few times over the last few years, that a lot of my favourites from the late 70s/early 80s were played, like ‘Duchess’ and ‘Nice in Nice’.
The only way to end a gig of this calibre is with a massive bang and this came in the shape of not one but two rapturous encores comprising of their biggest hits: ‘Walk On By’; ‘All Day and all of the Night’; ‘Peaches’ and (of course) ‘No More Heroes’.
The Stranglers never disappoint, but I seriously think this is the best performance I have seen from them yet. That is saying a lot about one of the UK’s best live bands. They are, without question, at the pinnacle of their game.