ONE of the UK's most exciting and influential groups to have emerged from the post punk world of the late Seventies, The Stranglers are preparing to embark on their final full tour of the UK including a date in Manchester.

The band promise a set that will be covering tracks from their extensive catalogue spanning over 45 years.including hits such as No more Heroes, Peaches and Golden Brown.

The band has undergone changes in recent years with the retirement of founder member and drummer Jet Black (who is still involved with the band behind the scenes) and the sad passing of keyboard player Dave Greenfield – a victim of Covid.

The band now comprised JJ Burnel on bass and vocals, Baz Warne on guitar and vocals, drummer Jim Macaulay and keyboard player Toby Hounsham and they have recently completed some dates in France.

Jean Jacques Burnel, The Stranglers

Jean Jacques Burnel, The Stranglers

"It was much more successful than I expected," said JJ Burnel, the only original member still in the bands."Sadly, we had to cancel most of the European dates due to Covid restrictions and we had to keep our road crew safe.

"But the shows we did do were fantastic, I didn't expect so many people to turn up so we definitely won the gamble. And it also gave us the chance to run in our new keyboard player, Toby Hounsham

"Dave Greenfield passing away was a big shock to us all and it's a big emptiness after the 45 years we've played together. But Toby has fitted in well and he's been accepted by the fans.

"He treats everything Dave played with great respect, and he keeps saying 'I can't believe I'm playing with the best band in the world',"

The band released the album Dark Matters' in September 2021 with eight of the 11 tracks featuring Greenfield and it went to number four in the charts.

"These days, the charts don't mean so much to us," said JJ. "However, it gives us some bragging rights and is a 'finger up' to those who said that we couldn't do anything fresh. It proves that there's no age limit to musical ability.

"We are all delighted with the album. It's about the world we're living in."

So will it feature prominently during the forthcoming UK shows?

As usual, JJ is keeping quiet about the set list.

"It's a different set list every night – we do that because we can," he grinned. "I've no idea how many songs from the new album we'll be playing. In France we did five."

However, he hints that the set will be dominated by Stranglers' classics, as he says. "I don't think audiences go to see bands to see them plugging their latest album"

Although this is to be The Stranglers' last full tour, it's not the end of The Stranglers.

JJ said: "Yes, it's our last full tour, but we hope to keep on playing one-offs. In fact, some are already planned into 2023. You see, in the last few years, we've played so much (Covid notwithstanding) and it's not really creative. I can't write if I'm stuck in a hotel.

"But now I'm particularly looking forward to the tour, to be honest," he said laughing, "I think anyone who's been cooped up for 21 months will be."

The Stranglers, with special guests Ruts DC, O2 Apollo, Manchester, Friday, February 11