Hugh Cornwell took a trip to Rescue Rooms to perform his solo material alongside some of The Stranglers' classics...
As I was writing this, I heard the sad news about Jet Black. The Stranglers have always been an important part of my musical journey. Never quite understanding them, too young to have seen them early. Too busy and poor to see them in my 20s.
We should always make time. Live for the now. This was how I approached this gig. I decided not to have any preconceptions. I deliberately tried not to judge. Who am I kidding? It was Hugh Cornwell. What a talent. What a voice. It’s thirty odd years ago since Jet Black said “okay, fine” when Hugh left The Stranglers... and fine he is. Let’s say, I’m really pleased that I finally made it tonight.
Hugh announced that this tour had been two or three years in the waiting, but a certain something had stopped concerts from happening. “How are you Nottingham? How’s that bad sheriff?” he exclaimed. He seemed clearly relieved but also sad that the tour was coming to an end.
There were two distinct parts of the set. First up, the recent years of solo stuff. This was a brilliant web of albums back and forth, defying timelines and expectations. Learning about mysterious men in leather coats. Promoting his new album Moments of Madness, the standout tracks were When I Was A Young Man, Beware Of The Doll, and the title track itself.
Unashamedly rock, but skilfully covering the whole genre from roll to punk and 60s, these were personal reflections of not only the last few years, trapped within our own spaces, but also a look back on Hugh’s life. Mature, but still full of vigour and a desire to change the world for the better. Is he coming out of a wilderness?
So many songwriters use themes of mortality, life and death, and this is one of the underlying themes Cornwell has returned to many times. With maturity, he approaches it again with the album Moments of Madness, confronting the admittedly ageing audience with his insights. One thing I would have liked tonight was to have seen a new generation discover his work. Perhaps it will happen, and it certainly deserves to.
As ever inventive and accessible, both Cornwell and his music were a delight tonight. Further songs from the near past, including Beyond Elysium Fields with its staccato beat, could easily have been The Stranglers around ’76. This was followed by a slower, darker one from same album, complete with flute accompaniment, then returning to Moments of Madness with Beware Of The Doll and the unusual sound of Hugh whistling.
From the album Monster, he talked about tales of writing songs during The Stranglers era, which were never finalised until years later when the right people suited the songs. And then, after a jazz interlude, it was time for the second part of the set: The Stranglers songs.
There are some songs that will forever send a tingle down my spine and one of those is Duchess, which is in my opinion one of the most perfect songs ever. And Hugh played it! 'I don’t care what others think and this is the essence of being fashionable, you do your own thing and like what you like' is an idea which is reflected in Hugh, who has often been described to me as a very particular man. Following his own ideas and life - sometimes fashionable, sometimes not.
The set included classics such as Nice n Sleazy, Strange Little Girl, and Grip, finishing with crowd pleasers Skin Deep and Always The Sun. In all, an excellent night, and a back catalogue for you all to check out over the dark nights.
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