The Fall: Grauzone Festival – live review

The Fall

Grauzone Festival

30th Jan 2015

After all these decades of watching The Fall this psycho theatre never fails to engage.

Tonight was an exercise in winding up the audience with an artful malicious glee – starting with nearly 45 minutes of cut up videos from Safi projected onto a back screen- a mixture of pop moments slowed down and repeated over and over walking the boundary between art and hooliganism. The increasingly restless audience were already twitching after ten minutes and that was during the video high points, like the cut up of a late period Elvis shot slowed down to a painful amorphous blob of quivering death jelly, sweating and gurning his way through one of his last gigs. It was almost painful to watch the decay whilst the Black Sabbath cut up is brilliant in its primeval rock grunt.

By the last videos of Michael Jackson the crowd are exacting revenge and the clips are watched through a hail of plastic glasses and booing as the impatient audience is beginning to lose its tether.

The Fall walk a cool tightrope. They come from a point in time when entertainment was an impertinence and pushing expectations and creating tension was an art-form. The thing with The Fall is that they are not a conventional band. People are attracted to this weird world for all kinds of reasons- for some it’s a circus side show, for some it’s a band they know some of their songs and for some they are Fall – a weird religion for fanatics lost in this Lovercaft world of twisted strangeness. But even the die-hards are tested tonight by the video show that goes on forever.

As the haul of glasses reaches a maximum Smith sends out the band who scurry on stage without the Smiths and take the brunt of the abuse and then lock into The Fall groove for a few minutes before the master enters the stage like some kind of grimacing wizard with Mrs Smith in front, handbag clasped to her body, taking to her Moog, and the tension reaches its maximum.

Instead of panicking Smith feeds off the temporary hatred and it adds a sharp focus to his blurred world. He stares at the audience with a magnetic contempt and The Fall swirl off into their arcane and strange world, made complete with the sound of the Smith-voice.

Does it even matter what The Fall play? The metallic KO of the modern Fall may have lost that grinding groove of yore but there is still something attractive about their sound that swirls around behind the compulsive anti-performance. The band are tight and the modern Fall still have that other worldly feel as they hook around a propulsive riff and hammer it into the ground whilst Smith holds one mic and then another and glares at the audience and then barks caustic sounds that seem to be beyond words through the PA.

There is a madness in the area, Mark sings through a plastic cup, shouts without the mic at the audience, stares into space, swops mics around, grins when hit by a plastic glass, tries too get drummer number 2, Darren, to sing the vocals and lurks behind the amps on the stage. There is a lot of humour and deliberate chaos to the proceedings and somehow in the middle of it all the band keep their shape like a giant killing football team not buckling down in an unlikely FA cup game.

Now that rock ‘n’ roll has been commodified and Rebellion become a T shirt or a Xmas best selling book on anti-capitalism, it’s refreshing to see a band like The Fall careering at the point of out of control madness. Somewhere beyond the crazed poetry and the magic mushroom mystery that once made them so attractive there is this leering, dangerously out of control juggernaut of chaos, a belch of genuine lunacy that somehow gets to play headline slots at festivals and strengthens its own myth with its playful disorder.

On top of that The Fall are like a thrilling joyride on the freakabilly as much as they have ever done, and if their creativity is trapped by their madness, their set is still full of great moments like Dedication / Bury / Gone To Venice which were some of the highlights in a long set that stretched into the night and came to a close just after Simon -The Fall driver- picked up all the plastic glasses from the stage and piled them high like a dislocated debonair bar tender. Smith cackled at the audience once more and they returned for an electric White Lightening and the pit exploded and the enigma disappeared in cloud of strange fumes.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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