Echo & The Bunnymen
O2 Academy, Liverpool
15th December 2012
Echo & The Bunnymen rip through theirÂ repertoireÂ to an enthusiastic sold out crowd in Liverpool. LTW’s Sean Diamond was there.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Echo & The Bunnymen live. Due to bad timing/forecasting I missed their ‘Ocean Rain’ concerts of 2009/11, which saw them play their (arguably) finest hour with the accompaniment of an orchestra, so I leapt at the offer of a ticket for their first homecoming gig of the year in the manner of a particularly hyperactive dachshund being presented with a brand new pig’s ear from the pet shop.
Ian McCulloch, as any Bunnymen fan will tell you, can be a notoriously erratic frontman live. Last time I saw them, at a British music festival back in the ghostly mists of the early 00’s, he cut a rather sad figure; a whiskey-swigging, audience-baiting caricature of a man who looked like he’d sooner be propping up a bar somewhere than performing to several thousand braying punters, a real shadow of his former self. Thankfully, the aforementioned shows and the return to form album that was 2009’s ‘The Fountain’ have laid waste to any fears he may have been pursuing the decades old rock ‘n’ roll career option of complete and utter fuckin’ burn out favoured by so many, including one of Mac’s heroes, Jim Morrison. Anything could happen tonight, it all just adds to the tension. Tension is something that The Bunnymen do well.
Arriving onstage to massive cheers from the sold out crowd, their faces concealed by black stage lighting, The Bunnymen launch straight into ‘Rescue’ and the place explodes.This is a show for the fans, with seemingly every person in the room bellowing every line from every song at the top of their voices throughout, often to the point where the band struggle to be heard! There’s none of the unpleasant hostility often associated with sell out gigs of this size (beer/piss hurling, unnecessary pushing and jostling, etc.); just a roomful of die hard fans having a good time.
The setlist is mainly comprised of songs taken from their first two albums, ‘Crocodiles’ and ‘Heaven Up Here’. ‘Villiers Terrace’, ‘The Disease’, ‘Do It Clean’; dark, brooding, tortured affairs which still sound unnerving and edgy almost thirty five years after their release. McCulloch says very little between songs, unusual for a normally outspoken soul, perhaps preferring to let the music do the talking on this occasion. His voice is as great as ever; an epic melting pot of crooning, howling and shouting which was just made to fill venues, with Will Sergeant’s majestic, almost orchestral guitar lines adding to the majesty of it all.
Then there are the hits. Only two tracks from ‘Ocean Rain’ tonight; ‘Seven Seas’ and, of course, ‘The Killing Moon’, both of which sound feckin’ amazing, possessed with a mysterious, dreamlike quality which has rarely been equaled by the nu-psychedelic hordes of later years. If you’ve never listened to this album before then do so immediately, as in, like, right NOW! Playing it? Good, then I’ll continue….
‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’, a song I was never previously that fussed about, sounds sublime tonight; a 24 carat pop archangel of a track with a chorus sent directly from Heaven. A predominantly acoustic, stripped back ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ hits all the right spots emotionally, and ‘Over The Wall’ is the kind of Herculean, Gorgon-slaying stadium-filling-anthem-with-insight which U2 could only ever dream of coming up with. The lightweights. ‘Lips Like Sugar’ is blessed with one of those indie dance floor choruses, all “sugar kisses” and star shapes, while ‘The Cutter’ provokes the biggest moshpit of the night; the line “spare us the cutter” seems to have gained new levels of poignancy and resonance in these times of senseless ConDem cuts and redundancies.
Inevitably, a band of such a contrary nature are always going to provide one or two disappointments; at approximately 1 hour 15 mins I felt the gig was a little on the short side, a bit of new material to flesh things out wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Still, at their best The Bunnymen genuinely do, to quote Mac, sound like “the best band in the world”, and it’s hard not to be moved by the warm, communal feeling within the crowd. In terms of sheer devotion and a sense of unity, homecoming gigs don’t get much better than this. Believe.
Words by Sean Diamond. More writing by Sean on Louder Than War can be found here.