Crud Fanzines PLC present...
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN
(review & pics by Phil Newall 2nd review by Andy Fatman)
"See you at the barricades, babe"
For me, this was the big event of the gig year; Yeah, The Cramps were phenomenal, sexy, etc others were good, Killing Joke's welcome return, the Raveonettes version of The Mary Chain etc, - but this one was going to be special, it was a birthday party after all.
The dates were to celebrate the 25 years of The Bunnymen, and to coincide more or less with the date of their first show at Eric's, Liverpool back in 1978. In the intervening years the band have reached the highs of chart success on both sides of the Atlantic, and corresponding success in Europe, Japan and strangely Brazil, the group have tragically lost founder member Pete DeFretis to a motorcycle crash, have split, allegedly acrimoniously, formed off shoots (Remember Electrafixation?) and then reformed yet all the while continuing to produce quality material that never seems to latch onto fads, yet also manages to sound current.
We've had solo material from nearly every member, most notably Mac and Willwhich to be honest has on occasion been a bit hit and miss - has anyone listened to Mac's first solo album 'Candleland' recently? - sounds more like Haircut 100!
The tour comprised of 23 dates stretching across the globe; opening in Boston, USA, before playing all the major cities, with two dates in Canada thrown in. Whilst in Canada Mac made an appearance on the Mike Bullard TV show. A bizarre moment for all as Mac was asked trivia questions on Canada to win a Motomaster Eliminator Power Box, the finest moment came when Mac was asked "What is a beavers home called?" Mac made an Oscar out of racking his brain, then remarked "A snatch" - Dead silence, then a few titters before the wordy presenter commented "Rarely, if ever, have I been rendered speechless" They gave Mac the Power Box anyway.
It was then a jump to Japan for a Tokyo date, before heading south for two shows in Australia. The boys then travelled to Brazil, where I am told they are revered in some sort of demi god like status, before heading for home with a stop over in Dublin.
When the boys get together it just gels, no more so than when they take to the stage. I had missed the last hometown show (LIPA 2001), bought the DVD mind, which showed that they had not lost any of that presence which made the thought of these anniversary shows all the more exciting. The UK dates of the tour were sold out a long time in advance, with persons offering tickets on ebay at £50, the touts outside The Royal Court were adding a few more tenners to that price.... The official web site had been running an anniversary competition (which was fiendishly difficult), all the previous albums have been remastered and re-released with extra tracks and detailed sleeve notes, so Bunnymen mania was ready to strike. There has been much talk of the Bunnymen of late, especially in reference to bands like, Interpol, and Coldplay so I hoped these shows would be an opportunity for the lads to demonstrate that they were and remain the innovators, as Mac was recently quoted "We are the Van Gogh's of rock, which is not a bad thing to be"
The official web site had been suggesting names of pubs for fans to have pre show gatherings, so we went with the flow and made to Dr Duncan's, on Queens Square. Once the four of us had arrived, sorted a couple of drinks we immediately you got the feeling that everyone there was also ready to witness some kind of 'event', don't forget this is a band who like events as opposed to just a show; need I remind you of 'Crystal Day' all those tears ago?
The Royal Court was rammed full, a few faces floated about, a McCartney; no not that one but his brother, Wardy from Granada TV etc. The boys made us wait an eternity which helped raised the level of anticipation, finally taking the stage just after nine. They exploded into life and then launched into 'Rescue', Mac seemed pretty happy with himself chatting between the songs, waving to family in the boxes. The crowd responded singing to nearly every number, on occasion Mac even suggesting we ease off!
Most bands are lucky to have maybe two/three really good songs, where The Bunnymen astound is that they have literally too many; the set was littered with hits 'Seven Seas', 'Over The Wall' an awesome 'Cutter', maybe because it was a home coming, the boys allowed themselves a few indulgencies drifting from 'Zimbo' into Lou Reeds 'Walk On The Wild Side' before coming straight back with the hardest version of 'The Back Of Love' I had ever heard. Mid set renderings of 'Bedbugs and Ballyhoo' and 1980's 'Crocodiles' from their debut where stripped down and then churned out as punked-up roar's.
Mac was at ease describing Liverpool as "the epicentre of the fuckin World" as he launched yet more towels and water into the crowd, all the while slithering across the stage like a demented Elvis. His voice was at its strongest in years taking 'Lips Like Sugar'; to towering peaks. He was flanked to his right by Will, who just let his guitar do his talking for him. The energy flowing from the stage was astounding even during the more gentle 'Silver', I think, Mac stood in front of 1700 fans and considered his position as leader of, to quote the T-Shirt 'The Most Influential Band In The World' and felt a very warm glow commenting "This is all I ever wanted"
The set closed with 'Nothing Last Forever' but they were not getting away without an encore, so when they returned to the stage the only song to end proceedings could possibly be 'Ocean Rain'. Mac described it as "The best song I have ever written" and then took it up a few levels backed with soaring synth's and Will's melodies. I reckon he's right, and the line on the shirts was accurate - tonight the Bunnymen displayed all the power, grace and finesse that has made themnot only an influence but possibly the finest band in the World.
Fatman's review ….
This is a revised review, as Phil submitted first, and has encapsulated most of same points that I’d plan to write about….(Were you stood next to me, and copying my notes? You couldn’t have, ‘cos I forgot my fucking notebook!).
This for me too, was to have been the gig going highlight of the year, a long weekend was planned well in advance, with Mrs Fatman making every detail was in place to ensure a pre Happy Birthday/Xmas present to remember….
Arriving at the venue early, I remembered the shite policy of no draught ales & parted the bar with a half-full/empty (depending on your mood- tonight definitely half full) plastic beaker of warm piss to take my place at the front (stage left). Eavesdropping the 30 something Scallies, there seemed to be a competition on who saw the band first, who had met the band, what rarities they owned & who went to same the school where Maccas’ auntie was a dinner lady once. (OK, the last bit is a lie, but my meeting with Mr Seargeant @ the V Festival in the summer is well documented on this site- with photographic evidence).
The Royal Court is a crumbling bastion of cool, and as such is the perfect setting to tonights events,…Crud may well have been in the "Music Capital Of England", but we’re in the "Land of Legends"…. to quote Mr Mac himself, the "Epicentre of the Universe…Adam & Eve hail from Norris Green" apparently.
The 30 somethings are in high spirits, with one stocky fella even trying "a Jimmy from Quadrophenia" and try to "rail" the balcony, and no amount of pleading with the surly boys in Security shirts can stop him being evicted….Hope he got his ticket from a tout!
Rumours of special guest appearances ("is that Gwyneth Paltrow in the V.I.P. box ?") prove false, instead we’re treated to an ubercool (Mac), headsdown, (Will), romp through a back catalogue that buries Jim Kerr and has made Bono reinvent himself more times than Mr BEN. Oh, there’s mistakes, but such is Macs swagger, he blames everyone but himself, Will, the crowd, the lighting guy, the sound guy (even the bloke selling the Icon T-shirts probably came in for a bollocking).
The relationship, onstage at least, between Mac & Will is sometimes splintered, yet compelling to watch, with Mac conceding the guitarists’ genius.
Highlights have to be ‘Over The Wall’, ‘The Back of Love’ (the loudest version I’ve seen/heard), ‘The Cutter (which has both balconies standing/bouncing) and a crowd stopping ‘Zimbo’ a Fatman favourite (from the at long last -available Avalanche mini – album).
This gig was important to me, it was important to all who heard, but you felt it was important to the Bunnymen as well. When the crowd drowned out Ian McCulloch during ‘The Cutter’, he asked "Shall I go home, then?", someone near me shouted back, "You are home!"….no answer to that………………………………………….
Phil, I’ll see you at the barricades, Babe, just next time wear a pink carnation, and carry a copy of The Times under your arm, so I can spot you.
"THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BAND OF ALL TIME"? – maybe
"the most inspirational band of all time"? – DEFINITELY MAYBE.
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