Friday, 16 October 2009

Echo & The Bunnymen, Glasgow Barrowlands, Oct 14th 2009

There is something about the Barrowlands that makes me all nostalgic.

I still get goose bumps walking to the venue and seeing the famous neon sign. I still walk straight to the merchandise stall to check out the t-shirts, although these days it is very unlikely that I'll buy one. I still smell the burgers and wonder how on earth I used to eat one every time I started coming to the Barrowlands, and I still think back to my first gig there as a 17-year old in 1993 to see Teenage Fanclub with support from The Posies and the Juliana Hatfield 3. How I managed to get in with the most ridiculous fake id, I'll never know.

I'm probably not the only one reminiscing about days gone by tonight. Echo and the Bunnymen released their debut single in 1979, 30-years ago. I would imagine that quite a few of the crowd have been following them since around that time. It was when they made their 'comeback' with the glorious 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever' that I got into them.

The atmosphere builds towards the Bunnymen's entrance with the dj pumping out tunes by The Doors, Velvet Underground and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. The dry ice is blasted on stage, I spot James and Rab from Glasvegas heading from the back to the side of the stage and before you know it the band are on, silhouettes shrouded in dry ice.

It’s a slow start with two songs I don’t recognise, but 3-songs in Sergeant lets rip with the opening riff of traditional set-opener ‘Rescue’ setting off some pogo-ing and dancing in the crowd. McCulloch gestures for the band to slow down towards the end of the songs before starting the ‘is this the blues I’m singing?’ refrain, then ad-libbing The Doors ‘Roadhouse Blues’ in for good measure.

The crowd is noticeably lifted from this Bunnymen classic and the band then toss in old favourite ‘Villiers Terrace’ for good measure.

Seven songs in and we get ‘Seven Seas’ with it’s beautiful opening guitar and McCulloch crooning his heart out. The Barrowlands crowd are now in full voice and the temperature is rising, yet McCulloch remains icy cool in a long warm jacket.

McCulloch warms to the crowd response and retreats to the drum-riser to light a cigarette. Taking several deep draws as the band start up ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’

The closing six-songs before the first encore start with two for the real hardcore fans; ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Zimbo’, before the band play an astonishing run of songs consisting of; ‘Silver’, ‘The Back of Love’, ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘The Cutter’.

The guitar break in ‘The Cutter’ lifts the song to a level that few bands can reach. Will Sergeant is the master of glorious riffs and melodies, before taking them to a higher place. If Nirvana mastered the art of quiet-loud-quiet-loud, then Sergeant is the king of lifting songs while remaining subtle about it.

The first encore consists of new single ‘I Think I Need It To’, showing that The Bunnymen can still produce brilliant guitar pop 30-years into their career, albeit with the assistance of Scottish pop-guru John McLaughlin on songwriting.

‘Nothing Ever Lasts Forever’ is the song that introduced me to Echo and the Bunnymen and it is a song that clearly means a lot to Ian McCulloch as he pours his heart into it; crooning and swooning through the closing section before leading the crowd into a sing-song of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ segueing into a glorious slowed down version of The Beatles ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and then Wilson Pickett’s ‘In The Midnight Hour’ before launching back into ‘Nothing Ever Lasts Forever’. It’s a great moment, showing McCulloch’s ear for a tune and his impeccable taste.

The band come on for a second encore with McCulloch introducing his new friend James Allan from Glasvegas on guest lead vocals. Somewhat surprisingly Allan is booed by sections of the crowd, but that only inspires him to turn in a great version of ‘The Puppet’. Allan looks very much like a junior McCulloch with swept back hair, shades and a long overcoat.

The band tear into ‘Lips Like Sugar’ for their true finale. Leaving the audience wanting more. This was a fantastic gig, my only regret was that they didn’t play the stunning ‘Ocean Rain’ in the encore.

Even with only two of the original members left, Echo and the Bunnymen are a band you can believe in.

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