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Manchester music reviews

Ian McCulloch

Echo and The Bunnymen at Liverpool Philharmonic

Reviewed by Jane Turner October 2011

Stop the Press: McCulloch the messiah incites mutiny!


Last night I witnessed a reluctant rebellion in the aisles of the Liverpool Philharmonic! The messiah McCulloch with tongue in cheek, rebelliously called on his followers to “fill that aisle” after an earlier comment that he had “never seen so many obedient people sitting down instead of standing up”. As the messiah spoke of “so many regulations that it is now impossible to make a Lancashire sausage” his followers were roused from their seats and took to dancing in the aisles with gusto – an activity not seen around here for years. Hundreds of happy people ignored the anxious gesticulating of the “chuckle brothers” as McCulloch had cheekily nicknamed the “bouncers”, and the people were at last back in their rightful place, on the land that was rightfully theirs and dancing in the aisles instead of wiggling politely from in or behind their seats. In an appeal to the “chuckle brothers” McCulloch declared “these are our people, they’re not doing anything wrong” and with that the party really got started; Echo and The Bunnymen were back in town!

As well as taking part in an uprising (with little in common with the Arab spring unfortunately), I also had a kind-of “born again” or spiritual moment or two. Watching McCulloch perform in a pitch-black concert hall, with just one small spotlight that cast him as a giant shadow on a side wall, which due to light-trickery and the angle of my seat looked like a crucifix backdrop I had to pinch myself occasionally to remind myself that this was a concert hall not a cathedral.

Echo & The BunnymenWith the smoke machine on overdrive that carpeted McCulloch in mist, adorning him in mystery and the absolute stillness of his performance (he hardly moved a muscle throughout), the depth and guttural tone in his voice and poetry of his words left me feeling I was in a place of worship, basking in the presence of a prophet. It was strangely mesmerising and a little akin to being drugged against my will, perhaps, and if it hadn’t been for the six big, loud, male members of the McCulloch fan club that I found myself sat amongst and whose periodic roars of “sing it Macca”, jolting me out of my trance to remind me that I was in the presence of a pop star with a big ego and a love of drama, I might have fallen to my knees and prayed!

The support band – Strings, had been melancholic, lulling the audience in to a calm stupor instead of preparing them for the raucous ahead when McCulloch and the rest of the band took to the stage to perform a two-set show to an appreciative applause. The first set went pretty much to what seemed like a plan, number after old number, well executed, but a little like a starter course in a restaurant – not quite satisfying enough but a taster of what's to come, and the main course that followed didn’t disappoint. The second set, the whole of the Ocean Rain album plus many old classics and a double encore of “Lips Like Sugar”, “The Cutter” and “Nothing Lasts Forever” was pure class.

I’ve never subscribed to the view that some things are worth waiting for, usually too impatient to wait for anything, and now that I am no longer a “Bunnymen Virgin” as my new found “Bunnymen Fan Club friends” had taken to calling me last night when they found out I had never seen the band live before, I might as well admit to it being worth the wait - because Echo & The Bunnymen are brilliant and accomplished performers. They have a limitless catalogue of astute and lyrically poetic songs and McCulloch has a pocketful of raw and vitriolic repartee in his oversized parka coat and is still as effortlessly cool as when I first saw him on “Top of The Pops” all those years ago. Playing from a vast back catalogue of great songs and including some new material they put on a truly electrifying performance and I left the theatre with the words of “Nothing Lasts Forever” echoing in my brain ...... “I want it now, I want it now, not the promises of what tomorrow brings ...... Nothing comes to those who wait ...... Nothing ever lasts forever” and looked over towards the Liverpool Echo Arena where the Labour Party had just finished holding their conference and thought to myself......I wish.


Absolutely no doubt about it; the best gig in Liverpool in the last week of September took place at the Philharmonic.

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