The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
28th November 2019
Hugh’s solo material post 1990 has for me at least been something of a hit and miss affair. Each album has one or two tracks of interest, but voice aside most of it is rather far removed from my musical focus. Hugh’s latest offering ‘Monster’ does however buck this trend. With very distinct and varied themes across its ten tracks it is a very accomplished album, one in which Hugh can rightly be very proud. Historical figures abound in this work, people worthy of respect and people instilling revulsion in the mind of the listener.
I am of an age where I have familiarity if most of the characters (except for Hugh’s mum!). Mussolini, Sergeant Bilko, Ray Harryhausen , Evel Knievel….. However, anyone under 40 may struggle with some of the names and may need to resort to the internet to figure out their stories. In much the same way I looked up characters and events that cropped up on Stranglers albums years ago (only the library was the internet of the day!).
Last Thursday in deepest, darkest Suffolk, Hugh played The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. A new venue for me and very impressive. With practiced precision we arrived minutes before Hugh’s stage time.
The set focus was understandably ‘Monster’ but he did visit ‘Beyond Elysian Fields’, ‘Hoover Dam’ and ‘Totem and Taboo’ material too. Highlight of the night for me was an instrumental version of ‘Irate Caterpillar’.
The first set was drawn to a close by the brilliant ‘Duce Coochie Man’, the best track from the new album and in many ways reminiscent of the ‘Nosferatu’ style.
'The Mighty Sevens' & 'Duce Choochie Man'
Of course, the second set was wonderful, vocals are so evocative and with no disrespect to the vocalists who have filled his shoes since 1991, it is Hugh’s vocal chords that own many of The Stranglers’ songs and for that reason alone those songs are a joy to hear from him.
However, Hugh seemed to have a problem throughout the gig which saw him on several occasions cross the stage to consult with a young lad. Was it the sound coming back through the monitors? There seemed to be no indication of instrument problems either. It was not before the last two songs of the night that the reason for Hugh’s dissatisfaction became apparent, it was the aggressive air conditioning above the stage.
As a result, a chilled Hugh finished the set only to appear a few minutes later at the merch stand shrouded like a Benedictine monk for signings and the odd selfie!
A rather bizarre conclusion to the night and one highly enjoyed in some fantastic company.