The Fall, Incubate Festival, Holland – Live review

The Fall at Incubate Festival – 013, Tilburg – 18 September 2011

Ah The Fall, what can you say that hasn’t been said about Mr. Smith and his cohorts?
Well”¦ we could report the incredibly enthusiastic reception they got at 013, nothing like the chin-stroking and woolly greeting in Rotterdam’s Schouwberg six years earlier. No, this was a strange new kind of love; gushing, fevered, open worship. People came to touch the hem of MES’s garments, so to speak, dancing and whooping and crowd surfing”¦ Glowering and battered trolls of a certain age came to nod absently along to their High Priest’s latest observations, as they’ve always done. But crowd surfing? To Bury? Get a grip kids”¦.

So there you are: a new fact. The Fall are now cherished and openly worshipped as “great” in Holland. Of course, Incubate is now entrenched as an accepted meeting point for alternative minds here. And lip service to The Fall is on the hipster membership card if you look in the small print, so appearances had to be maintained to garner hip quotient-ah. Gilded Youth moshed and crowd surfed along ”“ especially when a couple of well-known Fall covers got an airing (for the record, Strychnine, and a perfunctory but enjoyable run through of White Lightning); the crowd reacting with the giddy abandon that dancing on illicit cider at a Methodist Youth Centre can bring.
Another observation: the band – to these ears at least – sound like some MTV take on The Fall of yore. There’s glossiness, even a hair-spray sheen, a flash of shoulder pads. The attitude and front is completely different to the last time they were here in 2005, when MES & co. savaged the woolly audience with a contemptuous and sometimes throw away gig. And thankfully this isn’t The Fall of the 10 minute performance/slanging match at the LVC in Leiden in 2001/2. No, this was a glossy, shiny, sleek machine, scrubbed clean for a cabaret performance, one propelled by fierce drumming, tooting synths and a relentless guitar clatter. The new songs sounded tough and muscular, rubbed down with oils to show off their contours to best effect: and ”˜The Your Future Our Clutter’ stuff (especially Hot Cake) sounded as if they’d been given a sound thrashing by the drummer.

But for all the power of the band and all the utter certainty of their own powers, there was at times lack of light and shade, a lack of exploration of the weirder and odder areas sometimes conjured up by Smith’s vision. It felt that the less MES added to a song ”“ the less animation he showed in other words – the more perfunctory the band sounded. The Prophet of Snide often stood stock still, Dear Leader-like and resembling a stone casting, movement coming from a display of mastication matched only by Alex Ferguson at his most agitated.
”˜Chino’ was magnificent though. Smith, acting like angry gnome on day release from a garden pond, grabbed his congregation by the scruff of the neck, informing and moulding the atmosphere into something far out of the ordinary. And a great ”˜Psychic Dance Hall’, played on Martin Brammah’s birthday ”“ was a reminder of the turbulent eddies and psychic swells of MES’s muse at its very best.

So there you have it. It’s almost an irrelevant act writing a review on this lot, really. It’s The Fall, you go whether you want to or not.


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