Sept 23rd 2012
Photo | John Robb
Perhaps mirroring the new modern shizophrenic Salford itslef tonight’s Fall gig was quite the opposite from the previous evening’s adventure in Kersal.
If Kersal had been the spit and sawdust Salford of legend, tonight’s affair- a couple of miles away was in the scrubbed up Lowry theatre is at the heart of the city’s new image. Built on the old docks, a mere couple of hundred yards from where Mark Smith used to work as a clerk and next to the BBC spaceship lookalike media city this is a spruced up area of designer shops and glass and concrete towers surrounded by the wild west of Salford. The great thing about the Fall is that they fit into both these worlds and if last night’s Social Club affair was chaos and madness in the area this afternoon’s matinee show was the Fall sounding pristine and perfect and yet switchbalde dangerous in a sit down theatre.
Of course that doesn’t mean a sanitised performance from the band and their fans who play things very much by their own rules, with the band arriving on stage more than an hour late and the fans causing the officious security some real headaches by, er, dancing like loons. The hatchet faced security panic when the joyous and rather tripped out loon dancing from one gentleman at the front and there is the curious site of one dancer in a Prince Phillip mask getting man handled by the security before promoter Ed Blaney calmed things down.
Despite this the afternoon show was the Fall at their most fertile and focussed and it was oddly great to watch the show sat down and listen to the band who have melded into a fearsome unit with guitarist Pete Greenway on great spindly Fall form, even defying a broken string to deal out razor sharp, shrapnel guitar in the tradition of the Fall greats. The set was a keen mixture of off the wall, old favourites and new unrecorded salvos with the opening song, Irish, plunging everyone into the new territory with its rumbling opening jam and incessant building, riffing that became classic Fall hypnotic by the song end. They also play another new song, Hitman! and the signs are of a another good Fall album in the offing, the final newbie they play is Gray, the song apparently about age and this is the best of the bunch so far.
The band also rattle through a deathly version of Strychnine with the bar chords cranked through the Fender Twin amp sounding ferocious, especially when Smith cranks up the controls as he wanders around the stage altering the levels whilst slurring and intoning the lyrics over the top sounding like he truly understands the potency of the strychnine in question. Nate Will Not Retrun is spooked and the guitar work is fantastic, I’m watching those hands move whilst Pete is pulling some great sounds out of the guitar whilst never getting in the way of Smith. It’s great playing, tripped out, disciplined and brilliant and with lots of imagination and a perfect foil to Smith’s word war.
The air of living on the edge is added to by a sudden set switch when Smith throws I’ve Been Duped in and the band prove they are truly on their toes as the frontman wanders off stage to change his shirt and they deliver a great version of the song which is one of those off kilter, almost pop numbers they do so well and lifts them out of the morass of noise for noise sake bands. Elana Poulou’s heavily accented vocal gives the song it’s edge as she she sings from under a mound of handbags whilst impressively playing the keyboard line making her return to the band’s live show even more welcome after missing the Irish dates.
The vocal interplay on I’m Not From Bury sees Elana adding off the lead vocal on the songs chorus about who is and isn’t from Bury as the song seethes behind them. They play Contaner Drivers again, extending its roll on, roll off groove to a merciless ten minutes and end with a sinister Wolf Kidult Man, sounding like a band at the peak of its power. The current group has settled into the Fall thing, and this was one of the great Fall performances and I’ve seen many over the years, maybe more than 100 timrs since I first saw them in Blackpool decades ago. It had everything you need from a great Fall performance, there was the tension, the psychodrama and the madness but also a very tight band providing the base for the psychic poetry.
The encore was a triumph, a really rocking White Lightneing that saw the joyful, flailing dancing from the freed from their seats Fall heads and a fantastic version of Reformation that built and built the tension to a holy racket at the end and the kind of high wire tension that this kind of music is built for. You wanted it to go on for ever and it felt like it was going to at one point.
Unrelenting and unnerving.
the Fall set….
Nate will not return
I’ve been duped
I’m not from Bury
Latch key Kid
Wolf Kidult man