Like every band and artist, dates originally scheduled 2 years ago have been punted back further and further. Tickets yellowing with age as we come out of the pandemic. Seemed like this tour of Hugh’s was originally scheduled a lifetime ago. Strange how he’s promoting his “new album” that came out in 2018 but such is the void of time during the pandemic.
Hugh Cornwell and band are doing almost 2 tours in one. They’re supporting the Undertones with a series of dates up and down the UK whilst Hugh and band are playing dates in their own right in between Undertones gigs.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to witness Hugh’s soundcheck. Bundling into the stunning Picturedrome via the side entrance at around 5pm Hugh and band are already in full swing and blasting out the Stranglers classic “No Mercy”. We sit on the steps up to the bar. There’s hardly anyone in the venue, just myself, my wife and 2 friends and associated tour crew and sound and lighting engineers.
To my ears “No Mercy” sounds fantastic but Hugh doesn’t seem happy with it. A couple of run throughs of it and it’s met with “Let’s not include this tonight” from Hugh. Shame. Then they’re into Sweden. All sounding fantastic, it’s a real privilege to bear witness to what’s occurring.
Lighting check next. All band members stand still for a few moments whilst various lights are shone on them until the tour manager is happy with the setup. A little later Hugh exits the stage “Jim” he shouts as he walks towards me. I extend a hand but we fist bump (tad surreal). We have an enjoyable 10 minutes or so catching up with Hugh and band. Hugh seems in high spirits.
We exit via the side door into blinding sunlight. A mini heatwave and we find ourselves sitting outside the nearest pub enjoying the March sunshine and reflecting on what we’d just witnessed.
We enter the venue at around 8pm. As we walk in the crowd is a bit sparse. Didn’t everyone get the memo? Hugh is on at 8.30pm sharp. I manage to get a drink and as I walk back to the stage I notice the venue has filled significantly and by no means a sell out there’s a decent turn out. I notice a few friendly faces in the crowd and a few brief hellos are exchanged as we wait for Hugh to appear. Hugh and band enter stage to much applause and Hugh says “Ok so there’s gonna be 2 sets. My first set will be solo songs and my 2nd Stranglers so if you just wanna hear Stranglers songs then you can go to the bar and come back in an hour”. True to his word we’re treated to solo classics.
Hugh had mentioned to me at the soundcheck that during lockdown he’d rehearsed tracks from his first solo album “Nosferatu” and we were treated to a couple of them tonight in the form of “Big Bug” and “Losers In A Lost Land”. They sounded fantastic. Rumour has it that is next album will have a similar dark edge to it.
His first set is incredibly enjoyable and you’d be happy if that was just the gig alone. I’ve heard more than one person mention that they preferred his solo set to the Stranglers set.
For the 2nd set it’s a complete onslaught of Stranglers classic after Stranglers classic. It’s difficult to select a highlight so here’s the setlist….
I’ve not done Hugh’s band justice in my review. Both Pat Hughes (bassist) and Windsor McGilvray (drums) are incredibly talented musicians in their own right and without them it just wouldn’t be as good.
As I write this the tour is still ongoing and I’d encourage anyone to check Hugh out. I’ve heard the Undertones are putting in some classic performances on this tour also.