Progressive punk band The Stranglers are heading to the region with their Mackem lead singer at the helm. Katy Wheeler speaks to Baz Warne who wishes he could play Wearside more often.
EXPECT the unexpected” – that’s the message from Baz Warne as he gears up to take The Stranglers on the road.
After a successful tour last year to mark new album Giants, their first in six years, the punk veterans are back doing what they do best.
Live shows are what they love to do and Baz says that, with such an extensive back catalogue, there’s always ways to keep it fresh.
“We have 17 albums to draw from and we always change the set list to keep it different for us as well as the audience,” says Baz who lives in Sunderland city centre.
He added: “There are numbers we will always have to play, but on the whole it’s varied.
“On this tour there will be some stuff we’ve never played before as well as some numbers that have been dusted off after many years.”
He will be joined on stage by Jet Black on drums, JJ Burnel on bass and lead vocals and Dave Greenfield on keyboards.
Baz joined the band 13 years ago in April, becoming part of a household name.
Back in 1977 The Stranglers released their extraordinary debut album, Rattus Norvegicus, and firmly established themselves as the world’s first progressive punk outlaws.
Seminal long players like No More Heroes and Black and White followed before the band released one of the most well-regarded live albums of that era, Live (X Cert).
Later that year, The Stranglers released the gentler more evocative album The Raven and it is that album’s legacy that’s left its mark on latter-day Stranglers recordings.
During their career the Stranglers have garnered a total of 24, Top 40 singles over four decades as well as 18 Top 40 albums.
Hits include Peaches, No More Heroes, 5 Minutes, Duchess, Something Better Change, Always The Sun, Golden Brown, Strange Little Girl and Skin Deep amongst others.
This tour will see them perform dates across the country before a series of festival dates in Europe and heading off to perform in North America in June.
The gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy next month is the closest Baz gets to home on tour.
“My family and children come to the Newcastle gig which is great because I don’t get to see them much when I’m on tour,” he said.
“Newcastle seems to be getting better and better every time we play. It’s the date I always look for on the tour.
“This year it falls on keyboard player Dave Greenfield’s birthday as well.”
Baz says he would relish the opportunity to play his home town more, but that its lack of a suitable venue gets in the way.
“It’s crazy for a city of this size not to have a major venue,” he said.
“Where I live overlooks the old Manor Quay which we have played a few times, then, apart from Independent and a couple of boozers, there’s nothing.
“Sunderland really needs a mid-size venue of about 1,000-1,500 capacity.
“The Mayfair used to be great. I saw The Stranglers there in the 70s and 80s and played there in the Toy Dolls, it was a great venue.”
He added: “All the development that’s going on in Sunderland yet no one has built a purpose-built venue. If there was a suitable venue we would play there.
“There’s been talk about the old Fire Station. I remember drinking in the Old 29 with my mates opposite it years ago and saying then that it would be a great venue.”
Until Sunderland gets a much longer-for mid-size venue, Baz is concentrating on selling out some of the country’s top gig venues, such as Roundhouse in London, before crossing the pond.
He said: “This will be the first time I’ve played America with them.
“I still love gigging. It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I can’t see myself ever getting sick of it.
“The band is like a coin, you have the live side and the creative studio side.
“We have a really loyal fan base who come and see us every year and it really is a rush.
“I was just saying over breakfast to the lads today how excited I am about touring.”
* The Stranglers play Newcastle’s O2 Academy on March 29. For details visit www.o2academynewcastle.co.uk.