"THIS is the moment you’ve been waiting for," J.J. Burnel announced from The Ironworks stage some way into the punk veterans’ return to the Highlands. "Dads dancing."
There might have been a few other dads dancing in the crowd had the Ironworks not been packed so tightly that even a nostalgic pogo seemed out of the question, leaving it up to bass-man Burnel and frontman and guitarist Baz Warne to jig along to a song intro and do the dancing on the crowd’s behalf.
It was proof, if anything, that a band celebrating their 40 anniversary can still pull in a more than respectable audience, even if it did not make for the most comfortable listening experience, and the forcible eviction of a couple of fans suggested tempers were short.
Marking their ruby anniversary, the Men in Black chose a set that featured at least one song from each of their albums, from 1977’s Rattus Norvegicus up to 2012’s Giants.
It was a treat for the fans who have kept faith with the band over those four decades, though for others whose interest might have faltered around the time that Hugh Cornwell parted company with the rest of the band, it may have been a step into unknown territory.
Most of the big hits were reserved for the final quarter of the show when original drummer Jet Black, 75 years of age and in poor health resumed his rightful place behind the drum kit.
There was an early appearance for punk era anthem No More Heroes, though, just two songs into the set, and The Stranglers’ in-house keyboard wizard is so familiar with one of the band’s signature tunes that he comfortably played its complicated riffs with one hand while holding a pint in the other.
He proved less comfortable singing towards the end of a lengthy set that squeezed 40 years into two hours, suggesting that one of rock music’s most distinctive keyboard players this side of The Doors should stick to what he is good at and leave the vocals to Burnel and Warne — even if Warne’s menacing growl turned the always voyeuristic Peaches into something more unsettling and sleazy.
Above the band, four screens decked out to look like framed portraits showed photos, film clips and newspaper cuttings from the band’s past, along with other cinematic backing for the songs, culled largely from newsreels and B-movies, adding an occasionally subversive visual element to the no-nonsense rock and roll show that is The Stranglers’ stock in trade.
After 40 years with a still strong following, the formula seems to be working and the "last men standing" of the punk generation as Burnel has called them may not have quite the anarchic energy of their youth, but they can still deliver a pretty decent show when called on. dad dancing or not.