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Tuesday 1 March 2022

All At Sea Again

Echo And The Bunnymen played Manchester's Albert Hall on Friday night, the second of two gigs at the venue. Albert Hall has become the best gig venue in town, an old chapel with stained glass windows, a good stage close to the audience and tons of atmosphere. We arrived to an already packed downstairs room and the balcony also full. Picking our way down the right hand side we ended up close to the speaker at the front, the Bunny God projected onto the back wall. The Bunnymen appear at nine, lights down and the crowd are up for it, Ian later telling us (in one of the few onstage announcements where I can make out what he's saying) that we're 'the best crowd since whenever'. The setlist draws almost entirely from their classic albums, starting with the post- punk urgency of Going Up, Show Of Strength and All That Jazz. The band- Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant plus four younger musicians- are on it, Will's guitar fizzing and buzzing and Ian, black overcoat and sunglasses, is in fine voice, his voice up to the demands of those songs he wrote in the first half of the 80s. The only songs played not from those 80s records are Flowers, Nothing Lasts Forever and a new one, Brussels Is Haunted (which has some promise and sounds like they were fired up again while writing it). But it's their back catalogue we're here for and we get it in spades. Rescue, All My Colours (Zimbo) and Over The Wall all played with intent, Will switching between guitars, pedals and a synth. Six songs in Bring On The Dancing Horses is the first singalong moment, the band stopping playing completely while the Albert Hall sings the chorus, a trick they repeat during Seven Seas (Will strapping on his beautiful nine string teardrop guitar). 

These are songs which have been part of my life since I was a teenager, they're deeply embedded in my musical history. I've been out of sorts all week too, Isaac's death sending ripples and waves of grief through me every day, barely able to speak to people without being on the verge of tears. I'm already feeling emotional when they play Bedbugs And Ballyhoo, the song's groove cooked up nicely, dry ice pumping out, Ian going through the song's rhymes, chipmunks and kangaroos, rifles and cannonballs, the song slipping us and them back to 1987. Villiers Terrace follows. I once spent a day while in Liverpool as a student looking for Villiers Terrace (don't bother by the way, it doesn't exist). They do that Bunnymen trick of playing the song and then lurching into some covers, stitching together old Bunny favourite Roadhouse Blues by The Doors and Bowie's Jean Genie before cutting back into Villiers Terrace. When the opening chords of Nothing Lasts Forever come in I feel myself crumbling and as Ian hits the chorus, 'nothing ever lasts forever', I'm suddenly standing in a packed room, surrounded by people I don't know, tears streaming down my face, crying like a baby. My brother must have spotted it, he grabs hold of me and hugs me but I'm done for, the song bringing all that week's grief and tears to the surface. God knows what the people stood around me must have thought. Nothing Lasts Forever breaks into Walk On The Wild Side, Ian channeling Lou and getting away with it, and I recover myself a little. The two set closers are superb, a gloriously ragged Never Stop (one of my favourite Bunny songs) and a dark, driving romp through Lips Like Sugar, the song played how it should have been recorded back when they'd lost interest in themselves and each other. Two encores follow, the first giving us The Cutter, all spiky and raw, and then a drawn out, spare version of The Killing Moon, all that 1984 romance and mystery recreated on stage in 2022. They go off and then return again for Ocean Rain, waves of drama as Ian stands still, dead centre, crooning 'All at sea again/ Now my hurricanes/ Have brought down this ocean rain'. As the song finishes the closing lines seem to have shrunk the distance between 1984 and 2022 to nothing, 'All hands on deck at dawn/ Sailing to sadder shores/ Your port in my heavy storm/ Harbours my blackest thoughts'. 

Never Stop (Discotheque)

Ocean Rain


Nick L said...

Great to hear the Bunnymen are on form again but Nothing Lasts Forever packs such a huge emotional punch anyway doesn't it? Not surprised you reacted the way you did, and how great that your brother was there. Keep strong Adam, it sounds as if the grief is happening very naturally for you but that doesn't make coping with it any easier.

C said...

Sounds a wonderful gig - reading this I must tell you that your enthusiasm and emotion is palpable and infectious, the best kind of review there could be! The other emotions are so understandable too. It was a little different in circumstances but we only have our own experiences to draw on and you'll get it I know - when I saw The The in 2018 and the screen projections behind started showing images of Andy and his sketchbooks and drawings, I just burst into tears - sometimes I think one just feels grief in the rawest of ways and it can't be held back, there is nothing to do but to let it happen and just go with it.

Rickyotter said...

Cracking review of what sounds like a smashing gig Adam. Can't beat the Bunnymen for drama and pathos. Agree with Nick that Nothing Lasts Forever always seems to pack an almighty emotional heft, particularly when Mac is in fine voice. Just shows the incredible power and magic that music can bring you. I've had a few gigs where, for no reason at all, the lip has started to quiver and I find there's something in my eye. You have more than enough reason to feel like this, so use whatever gets you through, and be damned what the people to your left and right think.

Echorich said...

I'm so glad the stars aligned for you to have a real Bunnyman experience Adam. Thank you for sharing all of emotions it brought you.
Over the last 20+ years now, they have managed to do exactly what they did for you, transport you places in a very real way. Sure, you could flip a coin from one show to another to decide if Mac's voice will still be holding out during a tour, but he is a consumate, if somewhat arch, showman and he knows when a show holds import and he needs to show up fully.
I have to admit, and I know I have before, that Nothing Lasts Forever was never one of my go to Bunnymen songs, but it has aged with me much better than I ever expected it would. Its poignancy has become the thing that attracts me to it now.