Hugh Cornwell – All in all a good gig with a selection of original material followed by Death by Stranglers in the second set.
Review by Joe Todd
Photos by Chris Mackins
Recently I have begun listening to more of Hugh’s solo albums, and after being a keen Stranglers fan I found myself slipping into the ‘better with/without Hugh Cornwell’ debate that seems to be an ongoing theme between Stranglers fans. Personally I think his material is great and that was proven throughout his live performance.
Half an hour before the start of the gig, Fibbers in York was beginning to fill up with punters edging their way towards the stage. Hugh was performing two sets, one containing his solo music and the other containing hits from The Stranglers. Hugh’s solo material is a mix of catchy pop song’s and an occasional venture into a more energetic sound that fans from the 70’s might recognise.
Hugh entered the stage at around twenty past eight and took a while to tune up (possibly due to Fibbers being a particularly warm venue). It was jokingly mentioned that he might have had someone to do that for him by now, but all turned out well in the end.
The opening song was the first track from his latest release named Pure Evil. With its driving Doors based bassline and snappy guitar chords the fans ears soon pricked up. For me, the sound was a little muffled in places and not as clear as I have heard it before from this venue, although things seemed to improve as the night went on.
There was no time for applause as the band quickly moved through the next two songs – Leave me Alone from the HI-FI album and I Want One of Those from my favourite Cornwell album Totem and Taboo. There was a brief pause for applause and then it was straight into the title track from his latest release Monster, which is a very catchy number that works very well live. I found myself singing along with the chorus (they were also the only words I knew).
A slight pause followed later for explanations of the new tracks we had just heard, and the album Monster has a theme that celebrates the lives of 10 remarkable figures from the 20th century.
Later tracks showed off some of Hugh’s guitar effects that helped to fill out the songs with some interesting guitar solos following. Not the most technical, but a unique display of that classic Hugh Cornwell guitar style.
Mothra finished off the first set, with it being a mostly instrumental track with off beat drumming and strange time signatures from the one of Hugh’s off the wall collaboration albums Nosferatu. This track had everyone’s full attention.
Hugh went on to rush through some of The Stranglers’ greatest hits in the second set. With haste appearing to be the theme of the gig, Hugh performed two tracks as an encore without actually leaving the stage. Songs such as Peaches, Duchess, Strange Little Girl, Golden Brown, and Always the Sun were played. Hugh added his own twist to these classics, and despite being deprived of Dave Greenfield’s keyboard skills, Hugh adapted his own take on these old favourites, using the guitar and bass to fill in the gaps and create that signature sound in a unique way. The bass player had a great way of switching between Jean Jaques Burnel’s iconic bass lines and Dave’s keyboard riffs. This allowed us to admire Hugh’s creativity and innovation.
The crowd livened up in the second half especially towards the end off the set, with the set concluding with No More Heroes, after which Hugh took time to sign autographs and pose for photographs.
Hugh Cornwall played at Fibbers on Saturday 17 November 2018.