Despite their recent apparent reconciliation with the British pop charts, the Stranglers, live, still come off as one mean bunch of punks.
Their show at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum last night opened with a moment's surge of celestial keyboards, but then broke quickly into a rough and tumble stampede of throbbing bass lines, gravelly vocals and pounding drums.
Performing tunes drawn largely from their last few albums--just the stuff that seems to have given their longtime fans the most trouble--they brought the packed hall to a fever pitch in a matter of minutes. The sound was an unsettling combination of the heady and heavy. The tunes were subtle, often somewhat complex, while the playing had the intensity of street brawling. It was at once cultured but crude; a blend that proved impossible to resist.
Wall of Voodoo preceded the Stranglers, turning in a top-notch set of hard, hep electronic music. Using an odd array of cheesy, raucous-sounding synthesizers and a veritable junkyard of esoteric percussion, they deftly blended spaghetti-western melodies with disco-inflected rhythm creating a unique, provocative sound. The audience found itself wittily, mercilessly tickled in both mind and body.