Concert Review: Hugh Cornwell – Powerstation May 3, 2019

It was a bit of the old and a bit of the new as Hugh Cornwell performed solo songs and Stranglers hits for the assembled faithful at Auckland’s Powerstation.

The faithful seemed in short supply when openers The Murder Chord got things rolling…just a few hundred fans showing up. I suppose with The Stranglers themselves having performed in the same venue last year and in 2016, catching former lead vocalist and guitarist Hugh Cornwell was not high up on many folks’ bucket list, which is a shame since he and The Murder Chord both put on impressive shows.

Cornwell split his act into two sets, the first spotlighting his solo career after leaving The Stranglers in 1990, the second…playing the hits everyone had come for.

And so the Monster set, named after Cornwell’ most recent album, began with Pure Evel, a tribute to famed stunt performer Evel Knievel. With Hugh on guitar, the band was rounded out by bass player Pat Hughes and drummer Windsor McGilvray…and not a keyboard in sight.

There was speculation among fans on how those Stranglers tunes would sound without keys, but they needn’t have worried.

The first set featured 12 tunes drawn from Cornwell’s solo albums, reaching all the way back to 1988’s Wolf.

I think hearing Cornwell’s distinctive growl of a voice for the first time during Pure Evel made everyone feel as though, “Hey, we’re in the right place, this is going to be cool”.

And it was.

Although most fans weren’t familiar with many of the solo tunes, they listened respectfully. I myself was struck with how much Cornwell’s voice sounded similar to John Cale’s, particularly during Getting Involved.

There was a brief break and then the trio returned to slam out those Stranglers tunes, and boy did they deliver.

From the opening guitar strum of Always The Sun, the crowd was right into it, singing along with the chorus.

Pat Hughes bass playing made up for any lack of keyboards, whether it was playing the iconic riff of Peaches or the more intricate runs of Golden Brown.

Along with those classics, Cornwell threw in a few lesser known gems for the hardcore fans such as Strange Little Girl and Goodbye Toulouse…and they were much appreciated.

The energy level rose as the second set went on, and by the time they got to 5 Minutes, the crowd was at fever pitch, with a mosh pit beginning to develop.

Get A Grip On Yourself then fuelled the fire.

Cornwell described the set as, “death by strangulation”, then decided, “let’s cut the crap”, and dove straight into the “encore” without leaving the stage.

Despite breaking a string during Goodbye Toulouse…”who needs six strings?”…they carried on with a wicked version of Tank.

A dozen Stranglers tunes and it was all over, although many in the crowd, which seemed to have swelled in size by the sheer enthusiasm, were reluctant to leave, hoping for another song or two.

It wasn’t to be, instead Hugh spent time at the merch desk signing “anything put in front of him”.

To those who stayed away, thinking that they had already experienced The Stranglers, I have to say, “sorry, you missed out!”

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

Hugh Cornwell set list

Monster set:

  1. Pure Evel
  2. Leave Me Alone
  3. I Want One Of Those
  4. Monster
  5. Stuck In Daily Mail Land
  6. Getting Involved
  7. The Most Beautiful Girl In Hollywood
  8. The Prison’s Going Down
  9. Bilko
  10. Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit
  11. Mothra
  12. Duce Coochie Man

Stranglers set:

  1. Always The Sun
  2. Nice N Sleazy
  3. Peaches
  4. Strange Little Girl
  5. Golden Brown
  6. No More Heroes
  7. No Mercy
  8. Skin Deep
  9. 5 Minutes
  10. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
  11. Goodbye Toulouse
  12. Tank