Hugh Corn­well

The Fleece

Bristol Post - - COMMENT -

IS any­body feel­ing faint or light­headed be­cause we had three stretcher cases the other night… just keep an eye on the per­son next to you,’ quipped Hugh Corn­well a few songs into his sec­ond set of the evening - the half of the show fea­tur­ing clas­sics from punk leg­ends The Stran­glers.

‘OK, so are you ready for death by Stran­glers?’ he added, launch­ing into Peaches, growl­ing and snarling like he did when the song was a top ten hit back in 1977.

As ever dressed en­tirely in black, down to his scuffed Ree­bok high­top train­ers, Corn­well may be one year off his 70th birth­day but the man once de­scribed as punk’s ‘Dark Lord’ shows no signs of act­ing his age.

The dark curls may be thin­ner but he’s still as sinewy and men­ac­ing as when he was the front­man of the most suc­cess­ful punk band to cross over to the main­stream. He may be old enough to have a bus pass and state pen­sion but he still looks as tough and un­com­pro­mis­ing as when his con­tem­po­raries were Joe Strum­mer and Johnny Rot­ten.

The for­mer Bris­tol Uni­ver­sity bio­chem­istry grad­u­ate left The Stran­glers 28 years ago and al­though they have con­tin­ued with­out him, he has carved out a suc­cess­ful solo ca­reer, with his lat­est al­bum, Mon­ster, just out.

The first set of this long evening at the Fleece was formed en­tirely from his solo back cat­a­logue, stretch­ing back to Get­ting In­volved (from his 1988 de­but solo al­bum Wolf) through to more re­cent ma­te­rial like stand-out tracks Stuck in Daily Mail Land and Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit.

His solo ma­te­rial is cer­tainly not to be dis­missed and new songs from Mon­ster were warmly re­ceived, es­pe­cially Pure Evel and Bilko.

As the clock struck 10pm, Corn­well and his band re­turned af­ter a short break to a stage now bathed in red light.

They barely stopped to draw breath as they threw them­selves into back-to-back Stran­glers favourites, kick­ing off with 1978’s Nice ’n’ Sleazy and Good­bye Toulouse from Rat­tus Norvegi­cus, the band’s sem­i­nal de­but al­bum from 1977.

Backed by a bassist and drum­mer – de­spite be­ing in a four-piece with The Stran­glers, Corn­well has al­ways said his favourite bands were trios – the only thing lack­ing was the es­sen­tial key­board on Golden Brown, the band’s big­gest hit, and it seemed ironic their best-known song was the only dud of the night.

The 1986 sin­gle Al­ways The Sun gen­er­ated the big­gest crowd sin­ga­long of the evening - sur­pris­ing for a song that only reached num­ber 30 in the charts - and the hits kept on com­ing thick and fast as Duchess was quickly fol­lowed by No More Heroes and Strange Lit­tle Girl.

And just when most fans (pre­dom­i­nantly men in their 50s and 60s who were clearly Stran­glers fans the first time around) might have been look­ing at their watches to check if they’d missed the last bus home, Corn­well and his band threw in a blis­ter­ing ver­sion of Hang­ing Around that re­sulted in dozens of mid­dle-aged men thrash­ing around in the mosh pit as if it was 1977 all over again.

It topped off a night of pure punk nos­tal­gia from the orig­i­nal man in black.

Hugh Corn­well on stage atThe Fleece Bris­tol

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