Arriving at the HiFi Bar to a sea of black ready for Hugh Cornwell, the ex singer of seminal punk band, The Stranglers, to unleash his worst Sydney band The Dark Shadows thoroughly impressed – these girls rocked and gained many a new fan on Saturday night.

Hugh Cornwell and band came out … in BLACK! Yes, the men in black, though not the Stranglers, were back. Cornwell introduced himself as formerly of a little band we might know and then informed the audience that there would be two sets – the first a combination of Stranglers and solo work, primarily from his newest offering Hooverdam, which he proudly announced was available free to download from his website.

Launching into the first chord of Nice N’ Sleazy set the audience off in a wild frenzy, as expectations were wholly met. Cornwell’s telecaster delivered all the right notes and his vocals all the right sweet-toned sounds and pitches.  Duchess from The Raven, as well as the lesser known “Bearcage” followed “Going to the City” from Hoverdam – both solo and Stranglers’ work releasing the same energy one would expect from a punk rock act. Highlights were “Golden Brown” which was this scribe’s brother and sister-in-law’s wedding waltz, “No More Heroes” and “Always The Sun”.

Cornwell then performed his second set, The Stranglers’ influential debut album Rattus Norvegicus IV, in its entirety. Without going through the tracklisting, which fans would already well know, needless to say, the album was amazingly recreated, even without keyboards! Cornwell’s vocals were distinctive and strong, with highlights including “Hanging Around”, “Peaches” and “Grip on Yourself” and “Down in the Sewer”.

Having grown up to hearing yours truly’s brother play The Stranglers through the bedroom wall, and then stealing all his albums, Hugh Cornwell was a pleasant surprise on this tour–better than his first solo tour in 2006 at the Northcote Social Club and The Stranglers (sans Hugh) gig in 2008 at The Prince of Wales.

–        Mary Boukouvalas