The Stranglers at the O2 Academy, Liverpool last night were every bit as entertaining as they were the last time I saw them – in the mid- late- 80s!

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When I was younger and attempting to play keyboards at some serious level, I wanted to be a combination of Jon Lord from Deep Purple and Dave Greenfield from The Stranglers. There was a big problem with this: I was nowhere in their league as a keyboardist.

I was really chuffed when I learned about The Stranglers gig here in Liverpool and even more so when I was able to go. I heard about the gig only last week, and then my awesome girlfriend, Frankie, bought me the ticket as a birthday present! This is on top of the fact that I anticipate being in New Orleans with her on my actual birthday. I am very blessed.

So the gig was absolutely amazing. I have seen the Stranglers more times than any other band – the first time in 1979, where they were supporting The Who at Wembley Stadium (check out the other support too!). That gig was as surreal as it was brilliant! At that time they were touring with ‘The Raven’, which to this day remains my personal favourite of their many and varied albums.

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Being at a gig like the one last night, it was reassuring to feel – in my head – that I was in my mid-twenties again. Unfortunately, after some very arthritic pogoing, my body totally disagreed! I’m sure there are a few people who know me that don’t even want to think about that one! It was reassuring that a high percentage of the audience were my age. As Baz Warne quipped between songs “Aww this is nice – look at all the smiling faces (look at all the bald heads too!)” A couple of women standing next to me became very protective of their toes and their beers when I got started!

The Rezillos were supporting the Stranglers too. I never really paid them much heed in the dizzy days of punk – apart from that song that was on Top of the Pops called – amazingly enough – ‘Top of the Pops’.

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At such gigs now, there is always a tinge of sadness at what seem like the ‘lost years’ in my life. The last time I saw The Stranglers must have been around 1986. After that, I lost touch with them after some rather horrendous experiences with a criminal landlord who made various threats, resulting in my being afraid to leave the house – that’s a short period of my life that I haven’t talked much about on here. It was short, but enough to have had a lasting impact. Anyway, I lost touch with many of my preferred bands and musicians at that time, then later, when Jacquie became ill, I lost touch with all music.

It did make for an interesting gig last night, though – I would say about half the songs on last night’s playlist were ‘new’ to me. They did play many of their greatest hits and many of my personal favourites. They kicked off with a military band style arrangement of ‘Waltz In Black’, which brought back fantastic memories of a gig at Hammersmith Odeon where they started the show with 3 ballerinas clad in leather and lace tutus, fishnets etc. It was amazing to watch. Last night they followed that with the first two tracks from The Raven – as they had started their set at the Wembley gig back in ‘79. They also played standards such as ‘Peaches’, ‘Get a grip on yourself’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Skin Deep’, ‘Always the Sun’, their version of ‘Walk on By’ – ‘No More Heroes’ was left as a second encore. It made for great impact. They also played ‘Curfew’ from the Black and White album – a great surprise for me as this was another of my personal favourites.

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I read a review of the gig at the O2 Academy, Sheffield the previous night and for that one, drummer Jet Black was absent – he is in his 70s now. Glad to say that he played a few songs last night.

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At the Sheffield gig, frontman Baz Warne – who enthuses the audience and (apparently) the band with energy and humour – said in explanation of Jet Black’s absence “[He’s] having a cup of horlicks, a lie down and a rest.” Jet Black used to get some stick in the early punk days of the band as being ‘old’ (I remember reading in NME that he was in his 30s at the time). He is now in his 70s of course. But you wouldn’t know from the few songs he did last night.

The night would have been perfect if Frankie had been with me. But there will be gigs together in the next few weeks. I couldn’t help but tap my foot when the music started – and when the old classics came out, I was almost at full pogo – temporarily forgetting that this was my 57th birthday present, and where energy sporadically touched my life back then, arthritis does now!

Let’s just say that today – the day after – I ache in places I forgot I had!

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