THE STRANGLERS Review: Feel it Live tour, Bristol O2 Academy, March 23 THE music industry has certainly moved on in the past 40 years, leaving many bands in its wake. The Stranglers are certainly not one of them. As ‘the men in black’ took to the stage at the packed Bristol O2 Academy on Saturday night, their sound was stronger and more complete than ever, with JJ Brunel donning the crown as veritable ‘king of the bass’ and the amiable Geordie Baz Warne playing faultless lead guitar and vocals and showing the crowd just why he was the man to bring the band back from the brink of anonymity more than a decade ago. Toiler On the Sea, Goodbye Toulouse and Grip open a set which gradually builds up to work the crowd into a sweaty frenzy by the final encore. Underlying musicality comes courtesy of Dave Greenfield and his magnificent keyboard skills - complex and creative - and yet Dave is able to pull off any combination of notes without error (and often single handed whilst drinking a pint of water!). This is a band at the pinnacle of their career - and they have a recent critically acclaimed album to prove it. When veteran drummer Jet Black came on to replace Jim Macauley, who had done a sterling job for more than half of the set, the roar of the crowd proved just how much the original ‘Strangler’ - who is now nearly 75 years old - is respected by fans old and new for his ability to maintain the most complicated of rhythms, even if, understandably, he can’t quite cope with a whole set. The Stranglers have never been afraid of taking chances, and there is no other band quite like them. Their idiosyncratic style allows each instrumentalist to take turns at the lead to make a perfect whole, in classic Stranglers style. These are guys with fire in their belly and as JJ and Baz ‘duel’ with their instruments, there is no mistaking the expressions of joy on their faces. They still love what they do. It’s not like anyone else - but then it never was. The set is a perfect balance of newer material with old favourites - and with 40 years of back catalogue to choose from there is no shortage of material. Zipping back and forth between classic, recognisable tunes such as Something Better Change, Always The Sun, Peaches, Skin Deep, and the beautiful Golden Brown to less well-known album tracks such as Norfolk Coast, Bring on the Nubiles and a couple of newer songs from the most recent album, Giants, (Time was Once on My Side and Mercury Rising) there was something indeed to please everyone - but then 17 albums is a lot of material to choose from. Bass-driven, menacing and occasionally snarling and aggressive, this is a band who refuse to tow the line. But, like a good wine, the Stranglers have mellowed with age, and they taste so much better for it!