Echo & the Bunnymen
by / September 27th, 2011 /

Echo & The Bunnymen – Dublin

Tonight at the Olympia Theatre Echo and The Bunnymen are touring their classic Ocean Rain album, something that we fear will be a test of the pipes of main man Ian McCulloch. Having seen him croak through the last two shows we’ve attended, there’s a real risk that he’s shot his bolt and after some rudimentary versions of some of the hits, and some of the newer stuff, the questions over Mac’s voice start up in our mind again. Singing the chorus to ‘Never Stop’ an octave lower than the record might be testament to this. A lot of time has passed since the salad days, a lot of ciggies and bevvies, a lorra lorra laughs. You could forgive him, maybe just because he’s Mac, but tonight they’re taking on a classic, epic chapter in Bunnymen history and they better not fuck it up. It’s not just their legacy they’re playing with, it’s ours and the other 1000 people inside tonight.

After an interval in which everyone decamps to the bar and the jacks, they start it up. It’s clear by the end of ‘Silver’ that Mac is up for this, belting out the last refrain, backed by a sextet of strings. The voice is in; it wavers occasionally, but it’s still there. It’s on Oceans Rain’s album tracks that they show their mettle tonight. ‘Nocturnal Me’ is awesome, as sardonic and barrelling as it was 27 years ago, and although there’s some minor mangling of lines in both ‘Crystal Days’ and ‘The Yo Yo’ man, so much so that Mac misses a beat to giggle on mic at another missed line from Will. ‘Crown Of Thorns’ is as epic as it should be, there’s a real sense that the years are peeling away from Mac here, and he’s clearly enjoying himself. “This is the greatest song ever” is how he introduces ‘The Killing Moon’, and they way they play it he may be right, Sergeant finally getting all his cues just right on the guitar break. ‘Seven Seas’ is raucous, there’s no sense of struggle in the vocal chords, but the anticipation of the last, vertiginous notes of ‘Ocean Rain’ itself is beginning to set in. Will he make it up there, can he hold the line, is his voice like his hair, once unafraid of the heights, but now a little bit on the flat side? ‘My Kingdom’ is elevated above the recorded version and then Mac introduces ‘Ocean Rain’ with a: “this is even greater than ‘The Killing Moon’. When it’s good”. Getting the excuses in early?

They start it low, and build it up, and you can sense the energy from McCulloch now, he tries to get the crowd join in in an inappropriate hand clap, and as we approach the high notes Mac is now lifting the band up, egging them to crescendo with his hand (perhaps this newfound conductor role is why he no longer plays the guitar), and then he launches into it, “screaming…from beneath the waves.” It was like watching Vladimir Smicer taking that peno in Istanbul in 2005. Mac blasts the notes into the top corner, he nails them. It’s a release, not just for him, for me, for all of us. Our shared past is secure. “Piece of piss, innit”, says the singer. Clearly for Mac, form is temporary, but class permanent.

  • Bmaque

    shame they had to stain their legacy by taking the shekel and playing in tel aviv earlier this year when so many bands refuse to on concientous grounds. great band but mcullogh is an arroagnt sneering barsteward who i cant much warm too. Stil, the cutter and killing moon are two of the most memorable songs of their era to be fair…

  • James Lynch

    I am quite taken by the precience and pin sharp accuracy of the reviewers appraisal of the gig.
    All who attended should think themselves lucky that they were at this gig and not at the one I have just returned from at the Glasgow Concert Hall.

    Sad to say that the great man not only let himself down, but he let his bandmates down in a big way …especially Will Sergeant who patched over McCullochs vocal mistakes and miscues as best he could. He also let down the fabulous String Sextet of young female players who had obviously rehearsed and polished their parts meticulously.

    Most of all Mac let down the thousands of paying customers who were seriously shortchanged by the lacadaisical and shambolic end to the set. After an impeccable start, to the Ocean Rain set …. a blistering Silver, Nocturnal me , Crystal days and Yo Yo Man … the cracks started to show. Excacerbated albeit by some of the usual shameless neanderthal twats in the Glasgow audience shouting the usual shite and heckling during what should have been a pretty cultured affair. Same people no doubt who took to the bar rather than listen to the String section playing an intro set which included some rare gems.

    Love will tear us apart was obviously a bit too highbrow for them.

    McCulochs tendency to monologue incoherently and ruin the songs with overblown elongated middle sections of directionless rambling and forgetting his own classic lyrics, led to a stuttering stammering car crash of a scene which saw him cursing a ranting in very foul language to a paying audience which included some very young people who had come to see a classic album being played prefectly and in entirety. It was not to be and things got worse.

    After more rants and claims about having had bad news, which may be true and probabaly were, Mac seemed to just be very drunk and incapable of caring about the set. Taking more of the hecklers to task and making an arse of Killing Moon ( unforgivable ….. probabaly the song most people came to hear ) he briefly and thankfully recovered composure for Seven Seas and My Kingdom before succumbing to his demons again and childishly rising to the bait of the hecklers, most of whom were just in a gathering chorus of people telling him to stop arsing about and sing the songs. His charisma and humor was dulled by drink and his patter with the exception of a few heartfelt words for the Glasgow audiences of old was just plain rubbish

    The final insult to me and everyone else present was that he stomped off the stage refusing to play Ocean Rain … favourite song on the album and what should have been the enduring memory of the gig. Musicians exited stage looking bewildered and many people went home.
    I hope at least one of them had the guts to tell him what an idiot he was being.

    We stayed and prayed and finally they returned to the stage with Mac looking sober and contrite. he apologised for his behaviour and appeared to promise the crowd the entire album set again. A promise ( sic ) which was obviously scuppered by the event staff telling him that time was too short.

    We just wanted to hear Ocean Rain they then launched back into a reprised Killing moon which unravelled again and once more the demons took hold and they gave up the ghost ….still having not played Ocean Rain.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh ! as they say.

    I have had the memories of bygone gigs shattered, and had the missfortune of watching a great man act like a child. Could someone who knows him well enough please tell him that he is loved and worshipped by a great many people in Scotland ….in particular in Glasgow which he calls his spiritual home.

    We will forgive a great many things but for him to piss all over the chance of creating something spectacular and magical which would live in the memory of longtime fans forever is frankly a disgrace.

    Mac … if you did receive bad news our thoughts are with you.
    Stop boozing so much at you own shows. Your fans deserve better and so do your band.
    Get back to doing what you do best and stop worrying about the hecklers, the audience will take care of those assholes.

    You owe us one Mac ….. come back soon and next time DO IT CLEAN.

    Thanks for the good bits …… thanks to the band for trying their best.

    Thanks for reading this.
    I’m off to listen to Ocean Rain and have a wee cry.

    James Lynch

  • Malc

    Agree. Glasgow was one of the worst gigs I have seen. Mac abused the crowd, the sound guys, the lighting guys, polish people, the band, the road crew and finally assaulted Will Sergeant with the microphone before storming off stage. The crowd only started heckling him after he had given them a torrent of abuse for the tenth time and mostly they were just calling for him to shut up and sing some songs. Unforgivable Mac, whatever your bad news, and an explanation from the Bunnymen camp and a refund for everyone attending is due. Hope the tour is ok at other venues but for me it’s time they called it a day. How Will Sergeant can ever forgive Mac for treating him so disrespectfully on stage I do not know.

  • Dalejames2

    Agree with both you lads. Canny believe what we witnessed!!! Still playing it over in my head. Been on the different sites reading the reviews…majority very similar to your own comments. I’ve read a few crackers saying that it was people in the audience’s fault for what happened????? You know blaming so called hecklers for the failure of the concert is obscure. In reality the biggest heckler was McCulloch.

    A heckler to me is someone who attends a concert or event and constantly interrupts those performing in order to ruin the songs, gain attention for themselves and just basically create a bad atmosphere in the hall. Well folks this is exactly what McCulloch done including continual very crude swearing, insulting so many people and more….much more.

    If McCulloch would have just at least made an effort to perform, the amount of heckling he received just wouldn’t have ocurred. And to be truthful the so called heckling that I heard wasn’t even heckling it was just members of the audience expressing their total disappointment and disgust with his behaviour. I heard one guy over at the side of the hall shout out that he was ruining the concert and that his behaviour was disgusting. For me that wasn’t heckling that someone pointing out to McCulloch the facts of his actions and behaviour. After this guy shouted this out that’s when others started shouting out as well and the rest is history.

    Uch Mac, you’ve beening building up to this for a very long time. Should we really be surprised that it has happened? Well, actually didn’t think it would be in Glasgow of all places.

  • Joe

    I was at the Dublin show which was excellent and I heard about the Glasgow show at the York gig. York started off a bit dodgy and I thought we were in for something similar to Glasgow but as the evening went on McCulloch’s voice got better and it turned out to be a great show. I could hear the strings a lot better in York than Dublin