Music review: Echo and the Bunnymen, James, Brixton Academy, London
Monday 22 April 2013
"As much as I wanna pass on this torch, no one's takin' it off me 'til I'm dead," belligerent singer Ian McCulloch once characteristically maintained.
Very few British bands have been as hugely influential and distinctive as indie-pop torch-bearers Echo and the Bunnymen, yet here they are supporting James (a tremendous live act, great pop anthems, but influential? Nope, not so much) with a piddly 40-minute slot.
The “main act”, who the majority of the crowd are here for, are allotted over two hours. It’s enough to make the notoriously heated McCulloch even crosser than usual, but the lofty 53-year-old, sporting his obligatory dark shades, takes it on the chin, rattling through nine of their most memorably atmospheric anthems.
Shrouded in dry ice and driven by Will Sergeant’s urgent guitar, they open with the doomed romanticism of “Lips Like Sugar” (“Just when you think she’s yours/ She’s flown to other shores”) followed by their first single to chart, “Rescue”. Then we’re treated to the sumptuous double salvo of mid-1980s gems “Seven Seas” and “Bring on the Dancing Horses”, back when McCulloch declared they were “the greatest band in the world”. Listening to the otherworldly charms of “Killing Moon” ("The greatest song ever written," McCulloch half-heartedly informs us) and “Cutter”, you wonder how they ended up as a support act.
James duly demonstrate why they’re still
headliners: ostensibly because their frontman, with his shaven head and Ming
the Merciless goatee, is still a force of nature, spinning, pulling shapes like
it's 1992 and gyrating his snake hips like an unhinged shaman. But, best of
all, his dramatic baritone voice is still in sensationally good shape, and he
palpably relishes the high notes.
The Mancunian seven-piece, who really took off in 1990 with Gold Mother and peaked in 1997 with Whiplash, immediately energise their followers with "Waltzing Along" and keep them energised throughout their surprising number of persuasive crowd-pleasers: "Sometimes", "She's a Star", "Sit Down" (no-one does, thankfully), "Come Home" and the exquisite lament "Getting Away with It All (Messed Up)", with the memorable lyric "Daniel drinks his weight/ Drinks like Richard Burton/ Dance like John Travolta, now."
The new tracks, mostly plodding dirges, work less well, and a young choir at the back appear underemployed, but you can't complain when the fiftysomethings perform the saucy "Laid", complete with a small stage invasion, and the heartfelt "Born of Frustration". A stirring experience but McCulloch must have identified with Booth's repeated wail "All this frustration, all this frustration..."
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 2 'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
- 5 YouTube social experiment shows just how easy it is to kidnap a child
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
In defence of liberal democracy
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils