this IS rocket science”

Echo & The Bunnymen
Liverpool O2 Academy
Saturday 17th December 2011

Echo & The Bunnymen – (almost) the last band standing from the initial rush of activity in the wake of punk rock arriving in the city courtesy of the now legendary Eric’s Club; even the Eric’s name is once more in use ”“ a venue having opened in Mathew Street in recent months much to the wrath of the locals who used to frequent the original venue. The Bunnymen have also been through the proverbial mill ”“ from UK Top 40 placing, appearances on TOTP to international success; along the way the band have suffered the death of Pete DeFreitas, the fall out between Ian McCulloch and the remainder of the band which led to their split.

As of now and on the vast majority tonight’s performance they are once again able to claim their, admittedly self declared title of “the greatest band in the world”

The Academy stage is swathed in dry ice, the stage backlit iridescent green; and from the mist appears McCulloch and Sergeant flanked by the remainder of the band ”“ McCulloch centre stage seizes the mic and with a guttural “hiya” Sergeant stage left hunched over his guitar opens proceedings with ”˜The Back Of Love’. Barely time for breath and we revisit ”˜Crocodiles’ much to the delight of the sell-out crowd who are chanting the chorus back. McCulloch looks to be on form tonight; he actually seems to be enjoying himself ”“ granted he is appearing in front of a home town crowd and in an ideal venue, large enough to accommodate but due to the low roof a feeling of intimacy is created.

Things are brought more up to date with ”˜Stormy Weather’ from the “Siberia” album, before the ever familiar bass announces ”˜Lips Like Sugar’ ”“ by now the crowd are threatening to drown the band out! The Bunnymen have an enviable back catalogue, at any given moment they reach back and deliver another “master class in rock ”˜n’ roll” to quote McCulloch who pauses to pay respect to Sam Jones the venue Manager who sadly passed away recently.
There is no let up, this is non-stop ”˜Rescue’ flows into the magnificent ”˜My Kingdom’ with its delicate keys and yet more stunning sonic manipulation from Sergeant who has assumed his classic pose ”“ head stooped, fringe covering his face as he literally twists and warps beauty from his guitar.

Despite the intense heat McCulloch remains decked in heavy overcoat, between songs he engages in banter with the crowd, that said it’s difficult to understand quite what he is saying such is the level of his accent ”“ he is clearly enjoying himself; fending off requests, and responding to good hearted banter.
As ”˜Seven Seas’ commences a lad no more than 12yrs of age is lifted atop his fathers shoulders ”“ camera in hand, once the desired photo is captured however the lad remains aloft, arms held out singing the full chorus ”“ The Bunnymen have been around for over 30yrs, seems like they really do appeal to the next generation as well.

McCulloch dances, well manoeuvres about the stage ”“ some time since I have seen him quite as energetic as this; Sergeant remains hunched over his guitar, the rest of the band ”“ now a six piece deliver every note with pin-point perfection, the sound is clear, its loud which entirely suits The Bunnymen ”“ their songs have the ability to energise, to compel an audience to sing-a-long. This is none more evident than during ”˜All My Colours’ as people struggle to sing due to the intensity of the mosh-pit ”“ a pit at a Bunnymen gig; magnificent! A wisely chosen ”˜Nothing Lasts Forever’ allows everyone a few moments to regain their composure, on this occasion The Bunny men are not touring a particular album or release, as such this is effectively a ”˜best of’ set ”“ not that anyone was complaining, Christmas is approaching and what better way could there be to lift your spirits than The Bunnymen in full majestic flight?

McCulloch in typical modest fashion introduces ”˜The Killing Moon’ as “the greatest song ever written” before telling the masses to expect more in March 2012. Despite some of these songs being over 20 years old the band retain an inventive spirit, Will Sergeant in particular seems determined to find new twists and flourishes to overlay the each track, a succession of guitars being handed to him to as he literally spirits beauty from the strings.

”˜Lips Like Sugar’ closes the set as the band exit stage left ”“ an extended period of demands from the crowd (well McCulloch has to have at least one cigarette, blame the smoking ban!) see them return – McCulloch verbalising just how much this band means to him by declaring “This is rocket science” before the opening guitar attack of ”˜The Cutter’ peels from the PA ”“ in my humble opinion one of the finest piece’s of popular music ever written, even after 25 years I still get that tingling on the back of my neck as that chorus builds.

A further extended break, maybe two cigarettes this time and from the haze McCulloch reappears, he barks “your getting two more” before we are delivered ”˜Never Stop’ and ”˜Do It Clean’

McCulloch takes the time to thank everyone for coming and disappears once more into the ether ”“ job done.

This was The Bunnymen at their best, relaxed, looking like they enjoy being on stage ”“ McCulloch can be temperamental, he has the ability to, and has previously spoilt the live Bunnymen experience. Thankfully none of that was evident tonight ”“ at one point he even fashioned a football from a towel before launching it into the crowd ”“ clearly still dreaming of playing for his beloved Liverpool FC. Could it of been any better? Well, yes ”“ they could of played ”˜Ocean Rain’ which may well be the greatest song ever written ”“ but hey I’m a local lad and proud to be biased, and now eagerly anticipating a further album in spring 2012.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

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