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Wednesday 20 March 2024

All Hands On Deck At Dawn

Echo And The Bunnymen played a pair of sold out gigs at Manchester' Albert Hall last weekend, two nights celebrating their 1985 singes compilation Songs To Learn And Sing. I was there on Saturday night, the middle of my action packed musical weekend. The Bunnymen, Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant plus four shadowy auxiliary Bunnymen, are a slick outfit these days. Mac is centre stage and all in black, saying little between the songs but in good voice. Will plays stage left, switching guitars and peeling the lead lines from the last the last forty three years off nonchalantly, head down. They play two sets, one at 9pm and one at 9.50pm, a short ten minute gap between to the two, presumably so Ian can have a mid- gig cigarette. The Albert Hall is an atmospheric venue, perfect for the Bunnymen, back lit and with dry ice with the old Bunnygod figure on the back drop occasionally lit fully. 

The first half is a mix of old and new, opening with the post- punk thump of Going Up and All That Jazz, and then Flowers from 2001. New song Brussels Is Haunted  follows Rescue, Will leading the band through the 1980 single. The first set finishes with a strong pair of songs, Never Stop and Bring On The Dancing Horses, all 80s grooves and cool.

After a short break they're back. My memories of the second set are hazier but its wall to wall classic album tracks and singles, a singalong Seven Seas in the middle, culminating in The Killing Moon and The Cutter. An encore has them play an extended version of 1987's Lips Like Sugar, sounding superb on the packed floor of the Albert Hall. They follow it and finish with Ocean Rain, the drama and dynamics of their 1984 album's title track played for full effect, hushed and sparse instrumentation, Mac crooning behind dark glasses, and everyone coming together for 'all hands on deck at dawn, sailing to sadder shores'. 

Ocean Rain


Martin said...

Sounds like a cracking night.

Nick L said...

I'll always have a soft spot for the Bunnymen, and they can still dazzle live but they miss the best eighties rhythm section in DeFreitas and Pattinson as they were truly unique. The lack of latter day rapport and working relationship between McCulloch and Sargent is a great pity.

Swiss Adam said...

I agree Nick, I'd love to see Les back on board but it doesn't seem likely. And agree about the relationship between Ian and Will too, which seems to be heavily tilted in Ian's favour.

Khayem said...

I've never seen Echo & The Bunnymen live and from what I've read and heard from others, these days it seems a bit of a gamble as far as Mac's vocal form is concerned. Glad to read that he was on it for Saturday's gig, Adam, sounds like a fantastic night.

Anonymous said...

A friend who went to the Sheffield gig on Tuesday night was disappointed. He reported that Ian was drunk and drinking on stage, shouting at the sound man and picking arguments with people in the crowd. Stopped Show Of Strength several times to argue with someone. Guess they can be a bit hit and miss.

JC said...

I'm delighted the Manc gig went well....by all accounts Glasgow was a good one too, but as Anon reminds us with the shambles in Sheffield, it can be a bit hit'n'miss with McCulloch. It's why I've stopped going to see them. They were responsible fro what I still think is the best gig I've ever been to, albeit it was the best part of 40 years ago. I don't want that memory to ever get tainted.