Tag Archive: Hazel OConnor

Hugh Cornwell + Hazel O’Connor @ The Robin 2, Bilston, West Midlands, 25 November 2014

Tonight, Gig Junkies friends, we are in Bilston, in the Black Country and the delectable little venue that is the Robin 2 to see two blasts from the past – two icons of punk / new wave on a double headlining set - Hazel O’Connor and Hugh Cornwell.

First up, and so a potted bit of history, is Hazel O’Connor. Ms O’Connor is best know for ‘Breaking Glass.’ ‘Breaking Glass’ was a 1980 British film featuring O’Connor, Phil Daniels and Jonathan Price  but it was probably most notable for O’Connor’s debut album and soundtrack to the film, which went platinum and made #5 in the UK Charts with a string of classic hits. This was O’Connor and her most commercially successful. She has continued to record, issuing a plethora of albums since and to coincide with her 2014 album ‘Her She Comes’ she here tonight, with the two legendary performers who feature on the album – saxophonist Clare Hirst (Bellestars, Communards, David Bowie) and Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics) on keyboards.

And indeed her set features an eclectic mix of much of ‘Breaking Glass’ and some new stuff. This trio of women perform well together, O’Connor’s voice remains as powerful, and the interpretation of the old by the trio goes down well as the first track from that album is delivered – ‘If Only.’ “We are three women…” announces O’Connor. “Unless one of us is a transvestite.”

‘Don’t Call Me Darling’ is off the new album – and includes some French lyrics – a protest against sexism in the music industry. She’s definitely NOT your baby.  Back to ‘Breaking Glass’ we have the track inspired by the story of Blair Peach, who died as a result of injuries received in a fall at an anti-racism demonstration in Southall in 1979 – ‘Who Calls the Tune.’

O’Connor is a local lass, originally from Coventry (though she now lives in Ireland).  Chatty and engaging, she tells us she doesn’t do planes – she does boats. Likes tea (which she can drink in peace on said boat) and bags (which will be in her car on said boat and which she won’t loose!). The next song is written for her mother, who was in a hospice. During this difficult time, and to cheer her mom up, there had been a blizzard, so she built a snowman to make her smile and named him ‘Harry.’ This song is dedicated to her mom – ‘I Give You My Sunshine.’

‘Blackman’ from THAT album, is a jazzier version, and somewhat faster; as is ‘Shape of Things to Come.’  And then the cup of tea – it must be THAT track. The last dance in the ballroom as they say. ‘Will You?’ and we sing, and Hirst gives the classic sax tune. Big cheer and thank you.

Encore gives us her rendition of Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ – a laid back version and then the ‘Eighth Day.’ Forever and ever amen, amen, amen indeed.  Great response from the 500 or so punters here tonight. And to complete a sing a-long – with the Bilston Robin 2 Choir (that’s us lot then) – ‘Hey ho I’m Still Breathing.’

And so to a quick break before set number 2. Hugh Cornwell. Cornwell was the original lead singer of iconic The Stranglers and the vocalist and guitarist on some of their classic hits. With them for 16 years, he was on 10 albums and 21 top 40 singing’s before leaving the band in 1990. His latest outing ‘Totem and Taboo’ was released in 2013 to rave reviews and he’ll be playing Strangler’s hits and songs from this recent album for us tonight.

So him and his drummer and female bass player take to the stage and, without saying anything to the crowd, spend 5 minutes tuning, as the crowd wait expectantly before the title track from his latest album ‘Totem & Taboo.’ Then Stranglers track ‘Skin Deep’  and then another from ‘Totem’, the songs intermixed. Cornwell is not happy with the lighting, northe sound, and it takes a few tracks before he settles in and is more comfortable and starts chatting.

‘Duchess’ is given in true Cornwell style, before an older track – requested – ‘Hooverdam’. The crowd chant – “Hughie, Hughie, Hughie” the group of former punks keen to engage with their idol.

For classic ‘Strange Little Girl’ finally we get Cornwell – the voice – the track – he still has those classic vocals. ‘God is a Woman’, again from ‘Totem’ – “….and now we’ve established that – let’s go down to the beach…” – ‘Peaches’ style, which receives the biggest cheer of the night so far. Whilst the ‘Totem’ tracks are delivered well – it is invariably those Strangler’s tracks the punters want to here – ‘Get a Grip (On Yourself)’  from 1977’s ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ (probabaly better known as ‘The Stranglers IV)’get’s those punks pogoing -Cornwell’s version tonight  is raw and stripped back.

Encore starts with a bass rhythm as we go into ‘Totem’ – ‘In the Dead of the Night’ which rambles and stomps – you can hear the core origination from The Stranglers sound. And back to his former band – with ‘Nice n Sleazy’ (which it is), ‘Tank’ and ‘No More Heroes.’ Cornwell’s sound is rawer and punkier – it takes some getting used to as his renditions of these classics exclude the keyboards, which you end up playing as a backing track i your mind.

And another Encore – gives us ‘Bad Vibrations’ and then O’Connor and her females buddies are back as she gives us her take on ‘Hanging Around.’

Tonight’s show was a blast from the past – while there are new tracks there invariably the punters are there to see the classics. O’Connor gave us a good set – the old and the new – but the stand out was probably always likely to be ‘Will You?” Cornwell was punkier and rawer. He’s clearly still angry and snarly. It was great to hear his vocals and at times they really did take you to that place  especially with ‘Strange Little Girl’. It’s a difficult challenge when his former band are out and about and delivering every year – better and better and you have to park aside The Stranglers version 2014 from Hugh Cornwell version 2014, and take’s Cornwell’s version of those tracks in the way he delivers them.

For the fans there tonight – a thoroughly enjoyable evening with their punk new wave idols. Punk aint dead –  this variety of new wave punk is still very much alive and kicking. And is sure as hell isn’t  stuck in Daily Mail Land…

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Hugh Cornwell Setlist:
Totem & Taboo
Skin Deep
Stuck in Daily Mail Land
DagDave
I Want One of Those
Duchess
Hooverdam
Strange Little Girl
God is a Woman
Peaches
Gods Guns and Gays
Get a Grip on Yourself
A Street Called Carroll
Straighten Out

Encore I
In the Dead of the Night
Nice n Sleazy
Tank
No More Heroes

Encore II
Bad Vibrations
Hanging Around

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies