• The Stranglers: On Stage, On Screen

    Released by: MVD Visual
    Released on: December 11, 2012.
    Director: Robin Bextor
    Cast: The Stranglers
    Year: 2012
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    The Movie

    The Stranglers are one of those bands I got into late, only having heard a couple of their songs on the radio in the 80s. As I listened to more of their material I formed an appreciation of their wry sense of humor, dark imagery, and varied musicality. They never seemed content to stay in one place musically which made them far more interesting to keep tabs on. Since they began in 1974 and have continued playing and recording into this century they’ve become a band worth checking in on periodically, always leaving me with an entertained grin.

    In what appears to be only their second recorded concert DVD On Stage, On Screen features a 2005 performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire done both electronically and acoustically. Here are the respective set lists for these performances:

    Electric Set - Norfolk Coast / All Day and All of the Night / Death and Night and Blood / Big Thing Coming / Peaches / Skin Deep / Always the Sun / Long Black Veil / I’ve Been Wild / Lost Control / Goodbye Toulouse / Summat Outanowt / Walk On By / Duchess / Burning Up Time / Toiler On the Sea / Time To Die / Tank / Mine All Mine / No More Heroes

    Acoustic Set - Instead Of This / Southern Mountains / Dutch Moon / Tucker’s Grave / Strange Little Girl / Sanfte Kuss / Still Life

    The performances are fairly inspired and energetic, with lead singer Paul Roberts thoroughly hamming it up. Near-ancient drummer Jet Black thunders out the beats in their almost-ninety minute electric set and keeps things lively in their roughly thirty minute acoustic set. Bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel is still the driving force for the songs, though, as his bass lines are deceptively powerful and melodic. New-ish guitarist Baz Warne does a great job with the whole catalog and long-time keyboardist Dave Greenfield is clearly just having a blast.

    The sausage-fest of an audience (seriously, I think I counted 4 females in attendance from the footage) sings along loudly to their bigger- and lesser-known hits such as Always The Sun, Peaches, Skin Deep, Golden Brown and No More Heroes. The sets cover a range of material from the band so there should be something in it for whatever “era” of the band you’re most fond of.


    Audio here is served up with a hefty Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Rear channels are devoted to crowd noise, matching some of the footage used on the DVD to make you feel like you’re really there in attendance. Burnel’s awesome basslines dominate the other channels but everything else is quite clear, especially the vocals. The video quality is pretty good, too, as black levels never really get too noisy or competitive with the other light sources on the stage and in the venue. The widescreen 16:9 is just right for this presentation, too, since the focus is on the band entirely here.

    In addition to the band’s performances this DVD also includes the short Norfolk Coast (about nineteen minutes). Based on their 2004 album of the same name the short features bassist Jean Jacques Burnel in the main role as an adult survivor of satanic ritual abuse when he was a kid. Susannah York, Nicholas Ball and Lynsey Baxter round out the cast here and it’s a loose-form long video for that album, basically. It won’t win any awards but Burnel comports himself well enough in a dramatic role.

    The Final Word:

    A great set of songs from an overlooked but well-deserving band, On Stage, On Screen demonstrates the raw talent that has made The Stranglers last as long as they have. This disc is good for both die-hard fans and those just discovering them as well.