Echo And The Bunnymen
Rockaway Beach Festival
photo : Naomi Dryden Smith
I really truly was not planning to review tonight’s Bunny show.
I’ve seen them a lot in the past couple of years and fired off a mountain of words about their late period genius so I planned just to watch tonight and bask in their north-west coast blues.
But…but…that damn band have only just gone and upped the ante yet again.
This was shimmering, majestic and magical stuff with a crystal clear sound underlining the band’s perfectly balanced genius and all the fantastic contradictions that make them a fascinating proposition.
So the words are pouring again…
For all of Mac’s gruff and blurred in-between song banter and backstage stand up routine and that very Northern attempt to debunk the mythology, the moment the songs kick in the magic returns.
He delivers that haunting and deep emotional sensitivity and sonic perfection and that multi-layered beauty that always made them so hypnotic.
This quixotic wonder was apparent from when they first appeared in the post-punk period when they were the frontrunners of the new M62 noise that erupted across the northern fault line, along with Joy Division, tapping into the north west’s innate and natural aptitude for lysergic pop and embrace and deep love of melancholy.
And decades later it’s all still there.
The new band members lay down the Bunny groove whilst the Laurel and Hardy of indie rock Mac and Will (and that is meant as the highest compliment as Stan and Ollie remain gods in my kingdom) somehow manage to remain poles apart in personality and yet tied closely together in a perfectly poised creative combination.
A combination, that like the greatest comedy act of them all creates a perfect tension. This is a decade’s long relationship of chalk and cheese that counterpoints in a perfect musical synchronicity with the guitar’s delicate peals punctuating the singer’s grandiose visions.
Mac may spend his life doing everything to his larynx that you are not meant to and that would see most decades old voices shot to shit with that kind of treatment but, somehow, when he sings, it’s still a thing of beauty and a direct path to his soul. A sensitive and romantic soul that remains hidden by impenetrable shades and that gruff and sharp yet amusing acidic merciless Scouse banter. Like most northerners Mac lets the music do the sensitive stuff and the songs drip with beauty and pathos and a seminal skree that we northern men lace our art with and banish from our day to day communication and it’s this swirling emotion that is captivating in the songs and matched by the 3D soundscapes of the songs.
Meanwhile, Will’s guitars defy gravity – there are bits where it goes backwards, there are bits where it sounds like the kind of shattering glass of a Tom Verlaine, there are bits were it peels perfect melodic runs, there are bits where it makes extraordinary noises and still sounds futuristic. He really is a wonderful guitar player but unlike his singer, he looks baffled at the compliments and then tells you of a million obscure six string exponents he rates higher and reels off a list of hidden sixties psych genius for you to listen to before running away from a barrage of deserved brickbats. Yet he is one of the great players – a guitarist who will not play for a couple of minutes before letting three notes define a song, a guitar player who can deliver melodic or atmosphere, a guitar player who serves the song. Meanwhile, his singer who is one part Mark E Smith snark and one part heavenly will tell you that his voice sounds better than Sinatra and Bowie and you laugh at his wild self-belief and try not to agree with him even though it’s kinda true.
Tonight is a greatest hits set – Killing Moon is a shivering epic, The Cutter sounds like the seething mass of humanity of the Kop on one of those Europe nights, Seven Seas never sounded better and at just one hundred yards from the grey English Channel lit up by the silvery January moon is beautifully framed by the elements. Those nature metaphors are so much part of the stormy emotional landscape of the band, the salt-stained emotions and the big weather stuff that was always heart and soul of the band that should have burned out decades ago and yet somehow stubbornly remain as glacially perfect as ever.
Tonight was a triumph.
People keep coming up in awe to speak of the sheer sound and scale the Bunny- show. The band have no right to be this good this far into this journey.
Meanwhile, Will will probably scoff at this truth and Mac will think they were even time better than that.