The Stranglers performance at the Irish Village, Dubai. Image Credit: A.K Kallouche/Gulf News

From the heart of The Stranglers’ punk rock roots stems this overwhelming need to shock and rebel.

“Come with an open mind,” said bassist Jean-Jacques Bernel in his pre-concert interview with Gulf News tabloid!.

“We’re only five songs in and already there are plenty of bemused looking faces, still splitting opinion after all these years, I love it,” added lead guitar and vocalist Baz Warne, in one of his opening interactions with the crowd at Irish Village on Thursday.

They are not naive — and maybe even a little unnecessarily insecure and apologetic — to the fact that younger or slightly less familiar concert-goers will only know them for their mainstream hits Golden Brown and Always the Sun.

Neither of these songs though, truly represent, nor even slightly resemble who they are or what they are about, either in sound or style, but it’s these two anthems that have weathered the generations thanks to their, dare I say it, radio-friendly playability.

If you came to see them just for these hits however, you wouldn’t have been disappointed.

They obliged the crowd with the classics that you sense hang like millstones around their necks and then let loose with their earlier and rawer works that so obviously sit closer to their hearts and those of their more hardcore fans — starting with Tank and ending with No More Heroes, but not before a cover of The Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night.

It’s their energy and passion for their older and even more recent material that aides this rediscovery into the real essence of the band, with Peaches and Get a Grip on Yourself, the two tracks that helped transcend them, maybe even unwillingly, from punk obscurity to mainstream appreciation, while still staying true to themselves.

And the enjoyment with which they blast out these songs in front of a moshing faithful, backed by that renowned keyboard jingle, is what enamours newcomers to the group. If there were two tribes on Thursday, that of the educated and casual listener, they left as one, having got a snapshot into the band’s evolution, while also realising how relevant they still are today.

They couldn’t resist one final contradiction though, and despite forging harmony and warming to an audience that hung on every note, they then left coldly and suddenly to a chorus of boos for not delivering an encore. If they had intended to leave us conflicted, confused and somehow wanting to understand more, this was their mission accomplished.