Echo and The Bunnymen – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy

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By Victoria Holdsworth, March 2024

Liverpool’s seasoned troubadours never fail to sell out a show, tonight being no exception, however the O2 seems to have a habit over seemingly going over their capacity, and it was uncomfortably crowded waiting for the band to take to the stage.

As atmospheric as ever, the plumes of smoke billow out across the stage as the guys stride out to full whoops and applause from an eager audience.

An elemental backdrop of eerily lit trees, photographed by Brian Griffin, formed the entrance to a familiar dark, foreboding, magical forest, starkly projected behind the silhouetted figures of Ian McCulloch and his Bunnymen as they transport us back to the 1980s, when all you needed was a progressive drum beat, somit ever did, a real masterpiece of their earliest works, building some serious, palpable psychedelic guitar layers throughout the song.

There was always something alluring about Echo and The Bunnymen. That deliciously dark creative vein running through each and every album, creating a varied an enduring die hard fan base. the band span genres and generations like few others have achieved.

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Legendary guitarist, Will Sergeant, with his unmistakable axe moves, grabs us with his punchy addictive hooks at the start of ‘All That Jazz’, also from Crocodiles. Sergeant really does give it his all, regardless of what number night it is on the tour. This came from an album produced by a young Ian Broudie from The Lightning Seeds, lending the songwriter a few sounds he’d employ himself years later.

‘Flowers’, released back in 2001, from the same titled album is a cracking tune, and perfect for a laid back moment. There is a subtle sense of vulnerability to McCulloch’s vocals, which really makes it stand out against the more poppier soundscape, luring you in from the background, making you focus your entire attention on him, at which point in this dark fairytale, you are definitely under his spell.

‘All My Colours (Zimbo)’ is minimalist, but still manages to sound rich and substantive, today’s softer vocals  giving it a whole new feel. Then things kick up a notch as they end the first half of the set on some absolute post punk belters in ‘Rescue’, ‘Brussels Is Haunted’, ‘Never Stop’ – a track I could happily have stuck on loop – before ending on the classic ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’.

Could all these middle aged, world weary post-punks stood around me survive another half of a gig with such a lack of space? You could barely squeeze a fiver between you and the next gig goer, but as soon as the set restarts, all is forgotten as we get back to the story unfolding. ‘Show Of Strength’ starts up with that staggering, hypnotic bassline with McCulloch weaving his shamanic charm through each verse, its lyrics still relevant, possessing a post apocalyptic air, until the music runs out to nothing except the dour and prophetic words and tones of the singer – it’s captivating.


‘Over The Wall’ is a great anthem, which has explosive pockets of pure musical genius, all synchronised like a cluster of coordinated grenades tossed in to each few bars, lending a tempo to the lyrical call-to-arms. It stands out in any set list, but it was a personal favourite of mine. Up next, the 1984 hit ‘Seven Seas’, telling its surreal, evocative message of freedom. This song is one of Echo and The Bunnymen’s finest works, oozing pure brilliance from start to finish, and leading into a dirty, raw-sounding ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, blending its melody into another classic with Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, both executed perfectly, with crooning vocals from McCulloch, lined with the blackest velvet.

‘Heads Will Roll’ from 1983’s Porcupine sees the sparks ignite again in the eyes of the crowd, but it’s ‘Bedbugs and Ballyhoo’ that really is the star of the show for me tonight. I can still feel those goosebumps now, hearing those Doors-induced tones, whetting the appetite for, and drawing the set to a close, with two absolute musts in any Echo and The Bunnymen set list, ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘The Cutter’. The latter’s dreamy synth bridge line and gothic wave sounds sumptuous tonight.

Encores came in the guise of ‘Lips Like Sugar’, one of the best tracks they have ever written, giving me Psychedelic Furs vibes, before a mighty, orchestral-sounding ‘Ocean Rain’.

Echo and The Bunnymen are unaltered and timeless – and still a band that can deliver sacred musical moments.


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