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Echo & The Bunnymen - Empire, Liverpool, 25/3/2024

  by Paul Clark

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Echo & The Bunnymen - Empire, Liverpool, 25/3/2024

Tonight marks a return to the Liverpool Empire for the Bunnymen on what was the first of two hometown dates at the end of their UK tour. For the band and fans alike, it felt that this was no ordinary gig. There was no notable anniversary. Just the chance to savour one of the city’s greatest bands one more time in a fitting venue. The great and the good of the Liverpool bands past and present were in attendance alongside longstanding fans of all ages. The opening act was Erica Nockalls. She is usually seen on fiddle in The Wonder Stuff but was playing under her own name with a project that is akin to dark-electronica. The violin is used quite extensively throughout the set, although in a heavily treated form. The band even has its own Will Sergeant-like guitarist, in the form of Jean-Charles Versari. The pick of their songs is ‘Eiffel’s Eye’, but there was much else to admire from their set. They are well worth checking out in the future. The billowing of dry ice, the purple hues of the backdrop and the now-traditional Gregorian intro music meant the stage was set. Those who had stayed in the bar until the last minute filled up the rest of the seats in time to see the Bunnymen launch into a soaring version of ‘Going Up’. ‘All That Jazz’ follows soon after. It was interesting to see the band choose a song from their latter period. The largely forgotten ‘Flowers’ from the 2001 album of the same name was given an airing. I’m not sure that this is one of their stronger songs from the recent albums. Other newer tunes might have worked more effectively, for instance ‘In the Margins’. To be fair most of the audience probably wanted tunes from the period before the band split up. They’d have to wait a little longer for those tunes. On this tour, they have unveiled some new material which may herald the long-promised album of new material. ‘Brussels Is Haunted’ is a hooky little number that may need a few listens to get it under the skin. There is a decent Will Sergeant guitar line that suggests the song is worth giving the song a second listen. It felt like Mondayitis had set in with the crowd, as the earlier part of the night had felt a bit subdued and it took a while to take off. The moment of ascendency came when they launched into ‘Never Stop’ and ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’. The latter song certainly did the trick in getting the crowd going. Inexplicably that momentum was curtailed as they went off for a planned interval. The punters headed back to the bars. In the second half, as the band rolled out the crowd favourites the atmosphere changed. The sure-fire crowd-pleaser ‘Show of Strength’ got the second half underway and set the tone for the rest of the night. The audience had eventually taken it to heart that this was the songs to sing and learn tour. The hometown crowd showed that they were in good voice. The towering voice of Ian McCulloch took a while to get going tonight, but when he did, his voice is still a thing of wonder. ‘Over the Wall’ was magnificent as ever Will Sergeant was rightly in the spotlight as he coaxed mesmerising sounds from his guitar. It looks effortless, as he hunches over his guitar tapping away at the array of foot pedals in front of him. Not for the first time tonight ‘Seven Seas’ gets the crowd singing along. This Mac encourages as he invites the crowd to sing parts for him. There’s an interesting dynamic in the band as the two original members are positioned at the front right and centre of the stage. The rest of the band who do the songs justice are tucked away in the corner. They are barely acknowledged (or introduced) apart from when Mac is coaxing the quiet/loud dynamics of certain songs. He’s in good voice again for ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ with its ever-present ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ interlude. It was another call answered by the locals to join in the singalong. Mac’s mumbling between songs can veer from the abstract to the incoherent. Tonight, it was more of the latter. ‘Mumble, mumble, crochet, mumble, knitting,’ was one diversion during the second set. On earlier nights in the tour, they had played another new track ‘Unstoppable Force’, which has been rested for the time being and its place ‘Heads Will Roll’ has been brought back for tonight. This is another opportunity for Will Sergeant to show his brilliance. One inexplicable omission from the set is ‘The Back of Love’, but that’s one minor quibble. The other fan favourites are ever-present. ‘The Killing Moon’ was majestic as ever as Will Sergeant with his every faithful Vox Teardrop sent the song stratospheric and Mac’s vocals were perfect as he crooned his way through it. There was a mic drop at the end. It might have been to indicate a mistake. Up in the gods, it sounds great to these ears. They came back to run through ‘Lips Like Sugar’ with its Ray Manzarek-esque extended keyboard solo. ‘The Cutter’ was the final song for the night, well not quite. The crowd coaxed the band back out for a second encore. Fittingly ‘Ocean Rain’ ended the night in typically epic form. The band’s principal members showed why people will come out on a cold Monday in March to this band. Here’s hoping that the new album is finally released at some point in the next few years but it’s clear from what they played and also what they omitted that there isn’t the clamour for new songs to learn and sing just yet. Photographs by Andrew Twambley www.twambley.com

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Empire, Liverpool, 25/3/2024

Echo & The Bunnymen - Empire, Liverpool, 25/3/2024

Echo & The Bunnymen - Empire, Liverpool, 25/3/2024

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