All At Sea Again

Echo And The Bunnymen sounded like a band with something to prove at The Ritz on Thursday night. The set focused mainly on their early years and Ocean Rain, not once failing to do those songs justice. The opening section of songs like Going Up and All That Jazz is loud and punchy with just the right amount of punky aggression, Will Sergeant riffing at the forefront. A few songs in there is a one-two-three of Angels And Devils, Do It Clean and My Kingdom which if that had all I’d seen, I would have gone home happy. In their pomp the Bunnymen created a marriage of post punk and psychedelic rock and that’s what we get tonight, Will peeling off solos and riffs, one of the key post punk guitarists. During some of the instrumental breaks Ian McCulloch stands back gesturing towards his bandmate, fully appreciative of his playing. Mac’s voice has survived the years, a little deeper at times and there are some of the higher notes he steps back from, leaving the crowd to fill in, but he is still largely the singer he was thirty years ago, wrapping his tonsils around his Scouse poetry. There’s nothing run of the mill about this band tonight, They play like they mean it. The songs are done properly, a little raggedness adding to them and keeping them alive. They’re still doing that old Bunnymen trick of breaking into medleys- Do It Clean goes into Sex Machine, later on we get Roadhouse Blues, Walk On The Wild Side and Jean Genie- and then snapping straight back into the original tune. Villiers Terrace is immense, a scabrous tale of trippiness in post punk Liverpool (did I ever tell you I once spent an afternoon trying to find Villiers Terrace? It doesn’t exist). The poppier songs are joyous- Lips Like Sugar sounds as good as anything they ever did, Seven Seas shimmers and sways and Bring On The Dancing Horses is a big echo laden treat. Nothing Lasts Forever provides the terrace singalong moment. The Cutter is alive and kicking. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo is all beefed up, hair slicked back and all that jazz. The knack the Bunnymen mastered in the mid 80s was writing songs that were full of romance and drama, reaching a peak on The Killing Moon, introduced to us by Ian as ‘the greatest song ever written’. They then go on to do a good job of proving it. The last song of the encore is Ocean Rain, a masterpiece of quiet/loud dynamics, a transporting moment, Mac singing as if he depends on it, needs it. It’s 2016, a long time since their heyday. It’s true that this isn’t the original line up, they can’t match what they did with Bill Drummond at the helm, playing strange gigs in Buxton, the Crystal Days, St George’s Hall and so on- they were different times. But this is as vital and revitalised a Bunnymen as there has been for some time. If they’re playing anywhere near you in the near future, I’d go and see them if I were you.

Silver (Tidal Wave)