Echo And The Bunnymen
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 30/11/2003
published: 20 /
It is 25 years since Echo and the Bunnymen first formed. On a Greatest Hits tour to celeberate this, and the re-release of their first five albums, Anthony Strutt watches them roll back the years in great style
Liverpool's Echo and the Bunnymen are now 25 years old, and from the release of their first 7" only single, 'Read It in Books', back in 1979, they entered our lives and really have just stayed there. Full stop !
The original band lasted until early 1988 when Ian McCulloch left the group. He recorded two solo albums, while Will Sergeant, Les Patterson and drummer Pete de Freitas meanwhile carried on in fine fashion creating a more psychedelic vision for the new Bunnymen. Sadly Pete died while travelling to Liverpool from London on his motorbike for a rehearsal. Will and Les went on with the Bunnymen nevertheless until 1992 (See Pennyblackmusic's Damon Reece interview which covers this part of the story). In 1994 Will and Mac got a new band together Electrafixion, a brilliant more grungey version of Echo and the Bunnymen. 3 years later the Bunnymen reformed. Countless tours and 3 more studio albums, one live album and DVD all followed and Mac even got to record a new solo album too, which now brings us up to November 2003.
It is 25 years since the band played their first Liverpool show at Eric's in Matthew Street opposite the New Cavern. Tonight's London show is a celebration of those 25 years and also a chance for the band to plug new remasters of their first 5 albums.
At 8.30 p.m. the band tumble on stage to a familiar church Gothic intro tape and a stage full of dry ice and smoke, and launch straight into the 'Heaven's Up Here's show of strength.
Mac looks cool in his suit and constantly smokes endless cigarettes, while the new bassist, Les' replacement, knocks out note after note of sharp noises out of his instrument. Looking just as cool as Mac in his black 'Hustler' T-shirt, Will is also wearing his Sergeant jacket and proves he is one of Liverpool's greatest guitarists ever which I never doubted.
'Rescue' follows, after which we get several slower songs, such as 'Silver' and 'Seven Seas', both from 'Ocean Rain'(1984). After that we get the mature Mac-lead ballad 'Rust', "a song about growing old" before the band rip it up with the title track from their first album 'Crocodiles'(1980).
From here on it's just a mad hit after hit party. There's 'Bedbugs and Ballyhoo', 'Bring On the Dancing Horses', and 'Back of Love', which are followed by 84's classic 'The Killing Moon', which sounds like it was written just yesterday.
'The Cutter' gets the audience pogoing again, and this followed by the rare 'Zimbo' which gets an unusual live airing. Next up there are two faster tracks, 'Over the Wall' and 'Do It Clean', both of which are reminiscent of the Doors in experimental mood. On the eve of the Doors' first UK tour since 1970, the band adlib 'Roadhouse Blues' before refraining back into 'Do It Clean'.
The encores start up with a yawn and 'Nothing Lasts Forever'. The latter, their comeback song, I don't ever need to hear again, but Mac makes it more interesting by dropping in Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wide Side' and the Beatles 'Don't Let Me Down'. The beat picks up with stunning versions of 87's 'Lips Like Sugar' and 83's 'Heads Will Roll' before the band leaves us with 'Ocean Rain'.
A great show and a great band. Roll on the next 25 years !