Echo, Bunnymen, Patience and Grace….
The London Palladium, one of the most famous venues in the country, played host to one of Liverpool’s most famous bands in Echo & The Bunnymen. The band, who are celebrating 40 years in the music business, were in the mood to treat the crowd on a packed Thursday night, and they certainly knew how to do it.
“How we all doing!!”, enquires enigmatic front man, Ian McCulloch. And the audience responds in grateful manner before the band launches into opening number, Going Up. And it becomes blindingly obvious that sitting wasn’t going to be an option tonight. With McCulloch looking the coolest singer there ever was in jeans, leather jacket and shades, the band, lead by stalwart guitarist Will Sergeant, sound in brilliant form. It’s a night for the hits and they continue by going straight into Bedbugs and Ballyhoo, with McCulloch rolling back the years with the vocals known to everyone, young and old.
The classics just keep on coming with Rescue, a song from the very beginning of their career, and the audience laps it up. Ian McCulloch still cutting the coolest figure on the stage, almost Joey Ramone-esque. Never Stop is the next on the list of their greatest ever songs, which brings out the very best in every member of the band, with Sergeant still showing why he is still one of the best guitarists in the business.
All That Jazz keeps up the cool, classic flow as, by now anyway, the audience is on their feet. The instructions of the band, before the show begun, to stand up being fully obeyed. Zimbo (All My Colours) brings out the best in McCulloch. For a man who has been doing what he does best for 40 years, the fact he can still sound as good as yesteryear is a testament to this great singer.
After a curtain closing request from McCulloch was fulfilled, the band burst into Over The Wall. Arguably one of the songs of the night, and the fans loved every chord of it. Then it was the turn of, “The song no one can pronounce”, The Sonambulist. A song that is fresh and up to date and certainly fits in nicely with the Bunnymen’s extensive back catalogue. And all this in between some good natured ribbing between McCulloch representing Liverpool and the London audience, who took it all in their stride.
Back came the classics in the shape of Villiers Terrace. One of my personal favourites, it soon blends into The Doors classic number, Roadhouse Blues. With McCulloch assuming the position of Jim Morrison, it’s the first of two song crossovers. The other is the timeless, Nothing Lasts Forever. The modern day Bunnymen anthem, McCulloch then blends it into the Lou Reed classic, Walk On The Wild Side. Anyone who saw McCulloch on his solo acoustic tour last year would already be familiar with this combo, and those who hadn’t seen before certainly enjoyed it.
It goes back to the 1980’s with the brilliant, Seven Seas. The band still hadn’t broken into a sweat, as this look back at their amazing career just keeps going. And it keeps going into Rust, the 1999 number, and one of the songs that the audience members I spoke to had been looking forward to hearing. They weren’t disappointed. And they were in their element with Bring On The Dancing Horses and a rip roaring version of The Cutter, McCulloch’s best vocal performance of the night.
Cue the first encore, and it’s the best song ever written (copyright Ian McCulloch), The Killing Moon. And he isn’t wrong, it is the best song ever written. And Will Sergeant gets a standing ovation for his note for note perfect guitar solo. Lips Like Sugar kicks off the second encore before the band end proceedings with the marvellous, Ocean Rain.
40 years. 40 years is the time span of Echo & The Bunnymen and their remarkable career. The axis of McCulloch’s vocals and Sergeant’s guitar skills, aided and abetted by a very astute rhythm section, has been key to their ongoing success, without forgetting Les Pattinson and Pete De Freitas and the role they played. Will they keep going? Only time will tell. But time has been great to Echo & The Bunnymen. And Echo & The Bunnymen have been great for the music world throughout. A sublime concert from the finest of the Mersey beat.