Phil Moore reviews Echo and the Bunnymen at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Liverpool post-punks turned widescreen pop touts were visiting Northampton for the first times in years, and it's to their credit their output has matured like fine wine and was appreciated by a large and fervent audience.
Their new 'reinterpretations' album The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon might be a mixed bag of the inspired and insipid, but on the night it was all about the former and in spades.
Original singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant lead the six-piece band, including Pete Reilly of The View on second guitar, and they showed they all possess enough pizazz in their locker to keep things up front and engaging.
Kicking off with the clanging off-kilter Going Up from their debut album Crocodiles, they clearly meant business.
The 1987 single Bedbugs And Ballyhoo then slinked into view, all rolling bassline, stinging guitar lines and Doors-esque keys.
“This place is nice” remarked McCulloch about the venue. “We should have played here years ago”.
Not everyone present spoke Scouse though, so many of his charming and humorous asides were wasted on the assembled throng.
They played their 17-song set draped in a blue half-light that seemed to reflect the cover of their iconic fourth album, Ocean Rain.
Their U2-alike single Rescue prompted the first mass sing-along, and with almost the entire audience abandoning the pretence of this being a seated gig.
By playing a few of the less well-known numbers early on (All That Jazz, All My Colours, Over The Wall) the band got to showcase their esoteric, semi-psychedelic and gothic sides in all their glory.
By the time new song The Somnambulist reared its head, itself a reasonably decent tune, some may have been thinking “where are the hits?”.
First though was moment of terrific self-indulgence, as the urgent, baritone-voiced Villiers Terrace segued into Roadhouse Blues and The Jean Genie.
This was paying tribute to idols through discerning methods and continued as the grandeur of 1997 'comeback' single Nothing Lasts Forever had Walk On The Wild Side seamlessly bolted onto the end.
Now into the second half of the show, Northampton was treated to a veritable smorgasbord of some of the greatest songs you will ever hear, including the swaying crystalline melody of Seven Seas, the experienced melancholy of Rust and that perennial indie disco anthem Bring On the Dancing Horses.
They closed the main set with a great take on the claustrophobic mania known as The Cutter.
The band played a rare three-song encore, the Bunnymen and crowd well in tune with each other’s efforts.
They returned to the stage firstly for perhaps their best-known song The Killing Moon (all swoonful reverb and deadly shadow moves) and then the song Coldplay built their career around, Lips Like Sugar.
This would have been the perfect ending, but they came and went once more to return with the plaintive Ocean Rain.
This was a slightly anti-climatic finish to what had been a strong performance of a band with plenty of firepower.
It also summed up the wavering fortunes of a band that deserve to be much more respected than they ever have been.
As all went home fully entertained perhaps we should reflect on how it's better the band have been busy reminding us of their myriad qualities, rather than sat around wondering what might have been.
Echo & The Bunnymen played:
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
All That Jazz
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over The Wall
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues / The Jean Genie
Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk On The Wild Side
Bring On the Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon
Lips Like Sugar
* The show took place on Octpber 20. Visit www.bunnymen.com for future tour dates.