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..."
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
American film board gives gay film Love Is Strange R-rating despite no sex or violence
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians