Wednesday’s announcement of a tour delay cannot come as much of a surprise to anyone. At the rate that this lockdown is easing coupled with the rising rates of infection following a lifting of certain restrictions in other European nations means that UK gigs in major venues in the second half of 2020 are a pipedream.
So now that a good few respectful weeks since the sad loss of our unique keyboard player have passed, I feel that I can express my own thoughts on the matter of the tour and the future of the band on this site.
The obvious question is whether they should or shouldn’t have continued with the plans for their final major British tour. On this topic I am sure that there are as many opinions as there are fans to express them! There certainly is no right or wrong in this situation. In this I can for sure see both sides of the argument and as such my position on this is mine and mine alone, I fully respect contrary opinions and expect no recriminations!
I would rather that the death of either active, touring member of the band, i.e. JJ or Dave, trigger the drawing of a long black veil over the band’s long and illustrious career with no further live appearances in the name of The Stranglers.
On the night of the 3rd May, I stayed up late, listening to the band and in particular those songs that Dave really made his own (more from a musical rather than a vocal standpoint). This went beyond Golden Brown of course! In this respect I was the only family member, in a family heavily invested in The Stranglers, who felt able to do so on the day. The numbing effect of alcohol may have been a contributory factor in this respect as I attempted to digest this most unwelcomed of news.
From discussions earlier in the evening with Mo and Gunta, the three of us arrived at the conclusion that the element that underpinned that unique ‘Stranglers’ sound’ was not the grumbling bass of JJ (potent as it is), it was Dave’s handling of the keys that made all the difference. Think about it, over the years, Hugh, the undoubted voice of The Stranglers, was successfully replaced, Jet Black, the powerhouse drummer relinquished his drum stool for a younger man and was likewise replaced. Shoot me down, but I reckon that, at a very good push someone could do a fair interpretation of JJ’s bass sound if they were heavy handed enough and sufficiently disrespectful of their instrument. So, that just leaves Dave. Can he be replaced in a manner that would retain that crucial ‘Stranglers’ sound’? This is where I have my doubts.
The tour as it was set up was intended to be a final major celebration of the band as a live performing band. It promised to be a party for the faithful, only marginally tinged with sadness. After all things come to an end and after well over 40 years in the business there are no debts outstanding! It would have been an opportunity for the ‘Familyinblack’ to socialize hard as always, pre and post gig, for one last time. Graeme Mullen once said ‘Sometimes the gig just gets in the way’ Never a truer word was said Mully!
The new 2021 tour will be a different proposition altogether. I have tickets for 6 gigs, having been out done by the daughter who currently had 9 but is seeking more! My problem is that I cannot foresee a situation where I will enjoy any of them. It will just be too hard on me and those that have invested half a lifetime in following this exceptional band.
On the other hand I appreciated that the statement from the band that ‘this is what Dave would have wished for’ and as an outsider I cannot say anything to the contrary. I appreciate to that there are other factors that may or may not come into play here. What are the financial implications for the band of a cancellation? How do the insurers that underwrite these big tours view such situations in terms of death of a band member and additionally in the event a global pandemic? What power do venues have (some of which will be at risk of permanent closure) over cancellations?
Please feel free to share your own thoughts.