Echo and the Bunnymen – Live Review – York Barbican

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By Victoria Holdsworth, October 2018

There seemed to be an inkling of something special in the cold York air tonight as the musical living legends took to the stage. Ian McCulloch, calmly swaggered out to the smoked filled stage, which was set up to look like the living room of The Munsters. Alongside his fellow musicians they got straight down to brass tacks with the opening tracks, ‘Going Up’ and ‘Bedbugs and Ballyhoo’, which saw McCulloch intensely focused on the task at hand, donned in his his trademark black shades and black attire.

After the first few songs, there was still little crowd interaction from the band – and it was not to go unnoticed by some of their fans, who started making their ways down the stairs to stand and jump around in front of the gig goers with access issues and, of course, those people who had paid a small fortune to sit at the front.

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Will Sergeant, stage left at York Barbican, 2018

“Poignant melodic hooks”

This tour is to highlight the rebirth of old tunes from The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, however, when the set list kicked back in with ‘Rescue’, it was as though someone had lit the blue touch paper under the band, and the ethereal broodiness seemed to lift as they glided effortlessly through ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘All My Colours (Zimbo)’. With spook sharp guitar work from Will Seargent, adding his pinch of magic to the vocal talents of McCulloch, and punctuating the fading vocal lines with a strident edge, especially on ‘Over The Wall’.

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Ian McCulloch

New song, ‘The Somnabulist’, is a wistful, beautiful tune, with poignant melodic hooks. It sees McCulloch’s usual gruff vocal soaked with a velvety softness, as he sings: “Out of body/through the wall/Felt so holy/felt so small/Close to godly/I’m minuscule/The handle-wall/my molecule”.

“Reinventing their own work”

The newer stuff seems to have gone down with a great deal of approval tonight – and so it should. After all these years in the industry, it’s great to see a band reinventing their own works of art and producing something new.

The mood is then changed yet again with some well-crafted and thought-out melodious snippets of ‘Villiers Terrace’, ‘Roadhouse Blues’, which is one of the best covers of The Doors I have ever heard. I’m a sucker for McCulloch’s Jim Morrison obsession, which then slides into a very slick version of Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’.

Tonight Echo And The Bunnymen showed how they have progressed through many different phases and how they managed to cast a very different light on corners of the 1980s.

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McCulloch then prowled his way into ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ and a reworked dabble of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, culminating in ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Seven Seas’.

Saving three big hitters for last, ‘Rust’, ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’ and ‘The Cutter’, it really did feel for that few hours that the band had never been away. A final inevitable encore of ‘The Killing Moon’ is transcendent.

Put simply, the quality of the music tonight was exceptional. Fantastic edgy tweaks butting against soaring melodies and steadfast rock ‘n’ roller vocals from McCulloch. It may be a 40 year anniversary but, once the cobwebs were blown away, some exquisite rediscovered gems were revealed.


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