Apr 112017

The Men in Black play a sold-out gig at The Beach Ballroom on their “The Classic Collection” tour. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm. 

Original member Dave Greenfield is still there as well – hidden somewhere behind a bank of keyboards at the back of the stage

The Stranglers have been recording and touring for about 40 years now but they still provide an enthralling and entertaining show despite the years. The names and faces may change – original drummer Jet Black has stopped touring due to ill health and Baz Warne has only been the lead singer for the last decade – but the songs remain and the performances are still as lively and energetic as they were back in the 70s.

With 17 albums in their back catalogue, the band are not short of a choice of what to perform.

The 22 song set will have left the fans happy though and there can’t have been anyone too upset with what they play on the night.

First up, however, are fellow punk veterans Ruts DC.

Their ten song set includes punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Staring at The Rude Boys’ both of which are received ecstatically by the crowd.

Their brand of reggae influenced punk rock proves to be enduring and timeless and still stands up four decades after it was first performed.
Despite the crowd appreciating the special guests there’s no doubt that they’re here to see the main event though.

Hitting the stage at 9pm to the taped intro of ‘Waltzinblack’  The Stranglers blast through a 90 minute set filled with the hits, album tracks and the occasional deep cut.

Vocals are mainly handled by the aforementioned Baz Warne.

The amiable Geordie provides an ample replacement for original vocalist Hugh Cornwell and his subsequent replacement Paul Roberts.

Bassist JJ Burnell must have a Dorian Gray style painting of himself hidden in the attic as he still looks as young and as fit as he did years ago.

The hair may have traces of grey in it but, clad head to toe in black, he still cuts an imposing figure with a bass sound that rattles the pit of your stomach at times.

His rasping vocals on cuts such as ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ and opener ‘The Raven’ among other have a rawness and punkiness about them that has the Ballroom’s sprung dancefloor working overtime to accommodate the rowdy crowd.

Original member Dave Greenfield is still there as well – hidden somewhere behind a bank of keyboards at the back of the stage. His organ sound is a big part of The Stranglers sound and provides a pop sheen to the punk chaos.

The set is sprinkled with hits that even a non-fan would know – such as the balladic ‘Always The Sun’, the classic ‘Golden Brown’ and the cheeky, bass heavy romp of ‘Peaches’.

After a blistering 20 song main set, the band return for an encore with ‘Go Buddy Go’ – the b-side of 1977’s ‘Peaches’ single –  before finishing with genuine classic track ‘No More Heroes’.

As the crowd head off out to the blustery North Sea wind, you’re left thinking that The Stranglers are wrong in one respect.

There are still some heroes; not all of them wear capes though – some wear black.

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Jul 142015

With an avalanche of anodyne music seeping into our living rooms from tedious TV talent(?) shows, the news that Black Grape would play Aberdeen was great news. Their acidic acid observations are set to uplifting, neo-indie music which thrilled fans and critics when they first set sail some two decades ago. What would they be like now? Suzanne Kelly (article) and Julie Thompson (photography) found out.


Many old acts are reforming and hitting the road; their motivations vary.

Sometimes it’s a case of government austerity forcing these reformations.

It can also be a touch of greed, or a touch of poverty (fame does not equal financial security).

Some such reformed acts ache for a bit more adulation/re-lived glory, or just ache to get away from the wives.

Bands which are forced to tour can fool some of the people some of the time. But there are some things you can’t fake.

On Sunday the 5th July, Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom was filled with people who clearly loved Black Grape and who had high expectations. Everyone who entered with high expectations exited in higher spirits. God, I hope they come back.

The support acts were local lad Marc Culleys’ Soul Love, Aberdeen’s Tijuana Sun, and Mancunians Alias Kid. Culley’s set was popular; I was sorry I missed it. More on Culley here.

Tijuana_SunTijuana Sun has some accomplished playing and some memorable songs and riffs.

TS are a are a local act that’s been going for a few years now.

They are Mark Ferguson (Vox), Kris Harris (Guitars), Gregg Bannister (Guitars), John Brown (Bass), Paul Barclay (Drums).

More on them here

Alias_KidAlias Kid were a great warm up act for BG; it’s the kind of young indie act that’s very much needed to stir things up in the industry.

I found out afterwards that Alan McGee had signed them and I wasn’t surprised.  They are Maz, Sean, Col, James, Nick, Chris; follow them here.

There’s a sweet, poppy song ‘Zara with the Henna’ which went over very well on the night.

My favourite was ‘Revolution Sometime’ which impressed the crowd.

The percussion was outstanding; guitarist James has a way with his Gibson, and there’s lots of anarchic chemistry onstage.

Then it was Black Grape time. The current Black Grape lineup is Shaun Ryder, Kermit, Che Beresford, Mikey Shine, Seth Leppard, Dan Broad. Mancunia Promotions invited Aberdeen Voice to the Aberdeen leg of this 20+ date tour, which just concluded. For further information and links to some great BG videos, visit Mancunia’s page here

Black_GrapeThis enthusiasm thing. If Black Grape were faking it, then they should all be in Hollywood collecting Oscars. I wanted so much for them to be enjoying it, and for it to be just as it was when I first saw them 20 years ago. And it was.

Early on it seemed Kermit made a remark to Ryder about his being over 50 years old – and I’d expected the audience to likewise be people around the same age. The ballroom was in fact full of people of all ages.

The people jumping up and down on my right (with me) during ‘Reverend Black Grape’ and ‘Tramazi Party’ were all around 25 – 30 they knew every word and sang every word of this twenty-year-old track.

The people in front of me were at least my age; and all around were people testing the famous spring in the ballroom’s floor. If I wound up dancing without hesitation, it was the power in that music, the infectiousness of the dancing crowd, and the fact the sprung wooden floor with hundreds jumping on it made standing still a non-starter.

The opening numbers ‘Reverend Black Grape’, ‘In the Name of the Father’, ‘Tramazi Party’ & ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ were stormers. Kermit was amazing. Ryder displayed the personality we expected; he looked good. The bass player smiled throughout, going against the stereotype.

The energy of the music is equal to the lyrics; you have to go far to find anything approaching ‘Reverend Black Grape’ for a contemporary scathing assault on religious hypocrisy.

‘Old Pope he got the Nazis to clean up their messes. In exchange for gold and paintings he gave them new addresses’ – and there you have it – the Church’s dirty hands and the post WWII relocation of Nazi party top officials at the end of the war – summed up succinctly by a band from Manchester in one verse. And we danced to it. ‘In The Name of the Father’ puts the imagery from the video into your head as the band performs.

Black_Grape_Shaun_Ryder_and_Ke‘Get Higher’ features some of the band’s best writing and performance; the audience loved it, and again we were all singing and dancing.

I’d like to think they saw how into it we were. The waving arms and jumping people might have been a clue.

They really have to keep going and to come back. Soon. Is the material as relevant as when it was written?

No. With the way things are going, Black Grape’s music is even more relevant. I’d say we need at least ten more albums of what they’ve got to say. ASAP please.

On a personal note
I ran out and bought the Black Grape album when it first came out; I got a chance to see them in London (was it the Kentish Town forum or the Bull? pass). Somehow we all had after show passes, not that it mattered in the end, because the whole venue seemed to be a giant unending party. It was amazing. You can’t do that at the ballroom, don’t you know, but when BG were playing, it all came back. And it was delicious.

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