Well it has been an interesting time at present, with our obscure little city getting a plethora of old punk bands touring these shores. Many bands from my formative years of music collecting, whom I never thought I would get to see live here, with The Exploited, The Buzzcocks and now The Stranglers, all within the last 5 months.
The Horncastle arena is the premier indoor venue in Christchurch with a capacity of 9000 punters and I was surprised that the Stranglers were playing at such a big venue and I figured they would struggle to even half fill a venue of this size in Christchurch, and so it was that even with the stage moved forward a lot closer than I have seen it before it was far from full with probably about 2000 of us keen to see these legends on stage.
Unusually for me I actually got to attend this gig with some other friends this time, with about 8 of us converging from different parts of the city and surrounding environs to finally all merge in the foyer thanks to the convenience of modern communication devices.
The support act was Ed Kuepper, originally of The Saints and Laughing Clowns, both of which I have had albums way back in my murky past. He was solo sitting alone near the front of the stage playing guitar with a drum machine backing him quietly in the background. His half hour set was kinda dirgy and to be honest I didn't think the music worked in a big venue like this, the sound wasn't all that clean, kinda mirky and difficult to make out his riffing. In saying that the arena has an awesome PA system, with the twin sets of speakers suspended from the ceiling and coming down in a semi curve can put out some pretty impressive sound as I have experienced in the past.
The Stranglers hit the stage just on 9:30 as was predicted by the promoters and proceeded to play a totally wonderful set for about 1 and 3/4 hours with two encores, and they were as impressed with the crowd as we were impressed with them. For a band with a recording career of 40 years, I was a bit worried that they would be playing a big cross section of their music from all periods, a lot of it with which I was not familiar, after the initial period of 1977 to about 1985, but apart from a couple of quieter songs that were unfamiliar in the middle of the set which the rest of the audience didn't seem to know that well either, they mostly stuck to their early punk stuff and had us popping and grooving to their great sounds. They played most of my favourite tracks and some that I had forgotten about and even their great song Golden Brown which is not very punky at all but nevertheless is a brilliant song, although the lovely neoclassical guitar solo was a bit subdued soundwise, one of my friends suggesting there was a slight technical issue. The PA in this venue can put out some pretty wicked bass sounds and The Stranglers exploited this to great effect with the concussion from the speakers almost knocking us flat at one point when the Bass guitarist played some slightly experimental licks at the end of one song. The dirty bass sound of the Early material came across pretty well even though it was still pretty distorted as is usual at these rock gigs. Overall we all were really impressed and pretty knocked out by the evenings entertainment and I am so glad I went.