The Stranglers: Here come the Men In Black ...

The Stranglers
The Stranglers

The Stranglers: The Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline - It’s doubtful if, back in 1977, The Stranglers envisaged they’d still be touring and recording 40 years on, but 2014 finds punk’s great survivors in fine fettle.

While other bands hitch their wagons to the retro tours, The Men In Black have enough clout to go out under their own name and pack them in - the Alhambra on Saturday was packed, hot, and noisy; three ingredients vital to any good live gig.

Gentle swaying and bouncing around may have replaced the hardcore pogo-ing from those heady days of punk rock, but The Stranglers still deliver a belter of a live show.

The band’s ‘Ruby Anniversary’ tour is also much more than just a quick dusting of the greatest hits; it’s a two-hour,23-song show which included tracks from every album from 1977’s ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ to 2012’s ‘Giants.’

And on a black stage setting, with a band clad in black and most of the audience too, it was the music which added the colour and spectacle - that and some rather smart videos beamed through four giant portrait frames which hung at the back of the stage.

This was a perfect gig for the true die-hard fan, of which there were many - but there was also plenty to see and hear for those of us who tracked the band’s career from afar via their major hits, while the name alone also brought in some folk who weren’t around back in the day when punk rock scared old ladies and Radio 1 DJs.

There were so many hits the band could afford to chuck in the classic ‘No More Heroes’ - complete with JJ Burnel’s growling bass intro - just one song into the set. Suddenly you remembered the ‘others’ - Strange Little Girl, Always The Sun, Peaches, Hanging Around and, of course Golden Brown, to name but a few.

There were more than a few nods to the band’s sometimes controversial past in the videos and press cuttings on the screens, and Hugh Cornwalls role was fully acknowledged, albeit with the cheeky parting newspaper headline ‘‘where are Hugh now baby?’’

And remember that infamous gig at Battersea complete with strippers on stage? Cue one woman whipping off her bra for a topless moment in the spotlight... she left to ironic cheers.

There were more genuine cheers when founding member and original drummer Jet Black took to the drum stool for the encore.

Now 75 years old, and clearly not in the best of health he chipped in for the last few numbers as the band wrapped up a superb two-hour show before departing with the minimum of acknowledgement. No bow front of stage, they just put down their guitars and head into the wings ...