Punk pioneers, The Stranglers, delivered a golden night in Edinburgh to celebrate their 50th anniversary, delighting their fans with a blockbuster twenty-nine track set.

Since forming in 1974, the band has had twenty-three top forty singles and nineteen top forty albums. So there were plenty of tunes to pick from.

The night was all Stranglers. They had no support, instead they structured the anniversary show around two sets featuring songs from the 70’s to the present day as a window into their fifty-year history.

Set One

The room was already buzzing when the band strode onto the Usher Hall Stage and thundered into Just Like Nothing on Earth. The sound was immense with Jean-Jacques Burnel’s bombastic bass, Baz Warne on vocals and guitar, Jim McCauley on drums and Toby Hounsham on keys providing the unique Stranglers’ sound. The Men in Black were off and running.

Jim and Toby were sat on two stage risers with JJ and Baz prowling the front of the stage. The lighting was deceptively simple with three chandeliers above the band and circular lights across the stage, but the lighting guru’s magic had the lights match the mood of every song to perfection.

After Hallow to our Men, Baz welcomed the crowd to their 50th Anniversary show. This was one of the few times the band members would speak through the evening. The band would enjoy the applause from each song, take a breath then bang into the next. They were so tight; it was impressive to watch.

Baz dedicated the next song, The Raven, to late band members, Dave Greenfield and Jet Black. JJ took the lead vocal.

North Winds, The Princess of the Streets and Breathe highlighted The Strangler’s roots as pub rockers. Whilst Hanging Around introduced the unmissable Stranglers’ sound. The rhythm driven by JJ’s bass, keyboard runs and a machine gun vocal.

The first set finished with Down in the Sewer from the band’s seminal 1977 Rattus Norvegicus album. The crowd, now fully warmed up, were delighted.

The Stranglers in concert during their 50th Anniversary Tour at the Edinburgh Usher Hall – Pic Alan Rennie

Set 2

The audience were thrilled when Jock the Box strode onto the stage playing Jet Black’s Waltzinblack from the 1981 albumThe Gospel According to the Meninblack.

As the band took to the stage Who Wants the World? It felt like a fire had been lit in the audience. They were lively, animated, bouncing and singing along. It seemed that the break between sets had mainly been to turn the volume up on every amp!

The second set showcased songs from the band’s later period with tunes that the non-core fans recognised. Many more belting back the lyrics and even some mild pogoing! Classics such as Duchess, Peaches, Always the Sun and Golden Brown had the whole audience in its feet.

And then the engineers turned the volume up again! Even in the circle the seats were shaking to JJ’s bass as the set hurtled towards it climax. The hits came hard and fast. The ageless Relentless, punk anthems 5 Minutes and Something Better Change, then Tank whose percussive explosions shook the venerable old lady to her foundations.

The band left the stage to huge cheers and after a couple of minutes were back for the encore.

JJ thanked the crowd telling them that they wouldn’t be on the stage 50 years after they set up without the support of the fans. He told them that he was proud that they had started out as a pub band. And introduced ‘The Strangler’s oldest song’ Go Buddy Go.

Last up was the huge No More Heroes, a track they’ve played at over 1000 gigs since the ‘Year of Punk’, 1977. The crowd was delighted. Who knows what the combined age of the pogoing mosh pit was but they had a blast.

The excited chatter around ‘that was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been at’ as the crowd poured out reflected a great night they will long remember.

Words by Graeme White @head_in_the_bass_bin
Pictures by Alan Rennie @alanrennie