Hugh Cornwell @ The Stables, Milton Keynes – Friday 4th November 2022

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Actor, author and cricketer, vocalist Hugh Cornwell is a man of many talents, but he’s perhaps best known as former singer with original punks, the Stranglers. That band quickly outgrew the three-minute constraints of punk to become one of that eras most distinctive bands. Hugh has carried that idiosyncratic style into his wonderfully eclectic solo career, and tonight’s show promises to provide the best of both worlds with two sets comprised of Stranglers and solo material.

Those unfamiliar with The Stables venue need to make a visit as soon as possible, as with great acoustics and a warm welcome, it’s definitely one of the best music venues in the Midlands. It’s the perfect environment in which to frame Hugh’s sound and the stage, bathed in a deep blue light, looks very enticing. The band arrive all attired in black (naturally) and in typically understated style launch into ‘Coming Out Of The Wilderness’ from new album Moments Of Madness. Wrapped in shades of ‘60s psychedelia, ‘Wilderness’ reverberates throughout The Stables and considering this is the first night of the tour, the men in black show no signs of stage rust and lock in tightly to deliver a set which touches all points along Hugh’s solo career.

‘Stuck In Daily Mail Land’ follows, and juxtaposes spiky and angular guitars with a hard-hitting rhythm section and these musical dynamics which pit loud and quiet sections against each other will form the basis of tonight’s show. The band are a trio who sound far bigger than their constituent parts and provide a solid foundation over which Hugh’s oak-aged vocals float. Bringing the first set full circle is ‘Lasagna’, another cut from Moments Of Madness which proves to be an earworm which will keep us occupied during the half-hour intermission. Hugh and band deliver a stripped-back performance that’s devoid of any extraneous distractions which has the benefit of bringing the songs to the fore, and when they’re this good, that’s exactly where they should be.

Suitably refreshed at the bar, the crowd return to a delectable selection of Stranglers classics, and after the discombobulating ‘Waltz In Black’, a suitably filling-loosening bass rumble heralds the arrival of ‘Nice ‘N’ Sleazy’. There’s no time for banal between song banter, just classic track tumbling after classic track and such is the breadth and depth of the Stranglers discography that someone is always going to be miffed with the track selection (my personal bugbear is the absence of ‘European Female’) but the band do their best to please everyone with ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Skin Deep’ and a jazzy version of ‘Golden Brown’ while final track ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ ensures that Hugh & Co depart to rapturous applause.

I was intrigued before tonight’s gig with how Hugh’s solo material would hold up against the Stranglers material (and vice versa) and the answer is very well. Like two sides of the same coin, they complement each other very well, and I’m sure there’s not a soul who leaves disappointed.

  • Reviewed by Peter Dennis.

Set List:

Set 1:

  1. Coming Out Of The Wilderness
  2. Stuck In Daily Mail Land
  3. Moments Of Madness
  4. Mr Leather
  5. Under Her Spell
  6. Beauty On The Beach
  7. Beware Of The Doll
  8. I Want One Of Those
  9. The Most Beautiful Girl In Hollywood
  10. Another Kind Of Love
  11. Big Bug
  12. Mothra
  13. When I Was A Young Man
  14. Lasagna

Set 2:

  1. Waltz In Black
  2. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
  3. Tramp
  4. Strange Little Girl
  5. Souls
  6. Always The Sun
  7. Thrown Away
  8. Nuclear Device
  9. Goodbye Toulouse
  10. Skin Deep
  11. Turn The Centuries Turn

Encores:

  1. Golden Brown
  2. London Lady
  3. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

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