Music review: Echo and the Bunnymen, James, Brixton Academy, London

4.00

 

"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..."

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas