The Stranglers in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on Friday 1st March 2019
Dr. Feelgood is the Trigger’s broom of the music industry. It’s had a couple of new Lee Brilleauxs, and fuck knows how many new heads. But it’s the same broom. First things first – Dr. Feelgood, back in their early days, were one of the most no-nonsense, hard-edged bunch of bad bastards around, knocking out Canvey Island rhythm’n’blues. Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John B. Sparks, John Martin…this was a band. The Dr. Feelgood we have today is the echo of that band – same songs, different bad bastards; same spirit, but more imitation than originality.
True to the pub rock essence – and Dr. Feelgood were the archetypal pub rock band – this is as pub rock as it gets, albeit in a lovely venue. Singer Rober Kane tries his best to get the Lee Brilleaux vibe going, clenching a harmonica between his teeth and prowling the stage confrontationally during Roxette, or coaxing the crowd to sing the refrain of Back In The Night with the mic stand thrust toward the pit. Mad Man Blues rounds things off, and in a final mod move, Kane takes off his jacket and carefully folds it inside out before dumping it on the ground behind him…can’t scuff the material, like. It’s an inarguably good, if workmanlike, set of no-messing R&B. The Feelgoods always do it better than most, though, whatever incarnation of the band is operating.
The first most striking thing about The Stranglers’ set-up is the rust caked into the back of Dave Greenfield’s keyboards and their stand. These machines have been through the punk rock ringer, and as ever it’s Greenfield’s baroque, swirling organ sounds that leave the lasting impression. An early-set (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) serves mostly as a vehicle for the nonchalant Greenfield to impress, although it’s a muscular turn from all involved. Princess of the Streets is a more by-numbers affair, but as often happens during the set, the drudgery is elevated by the man behind the keys.
“I’ve never been called premature before. I think I was that time”, bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel concedes as Peaches suddenly cuts out in favour of Uptown. “We’ve had the foreplay”, he counters after, and Peaches gets its full outing, the perennial classic. Baz Warne offers a new song from his “pink thrusting guitar” in the shape of Man On The Moon, garnering respectful attention from the crowd for what’s mainly uninspired stuff. The highs are from their early career – a low-key Golden Brown, with Warne out in front of monitors for a jazzy, unfussy solo; a brusque Hanging Around; No More Heroes, with Burnel thumping the body of his bass with his fist to get the required low-end heft.
Inexplicably, the bassist launches into a pre-encore chat about French melon farms until Warne takes things back to earth, with a cover of Dionne Warwick’s Walk On By running the set out. “Have you fucking enjoyed yourselves?” he asks. From the R&B gruel of Dr. Feelgood to the grandiose punk of The Stranglers, it’s two variable sets from outfits that top the class in their respective musical sphere. But yes, we fucking enjoyed ourselves.