SAME BOYS DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
I've had a bit of a tempestuous love affair with Echo & the Bunnymen live. Sometimes I've seen them perform, and it's been the greatest thing to ever happen to my ears ever; other times, a mind-numbing exercise in tedium. I wasn't sure I wanted to go back in again this time around, especially since I'm also lukewarm on the new album, Siberia. It starts out great and really charges along for four or five songs, and then begins to stumble under its own weight, only redeeming itself at the very end with the excellent "What If We Are?"
The decision was ultimately made for me when my publisher, Joe Nozemack, said he was taking me along as a Christmas present. All right, then, for that price, I can do it! The show was this past Thursday, 12/1/05.
(Sidenote: Yes, I realize that the last three shows I have seen have all been aging bands from the '80s. I don't know why this has happened, it just has.)
The Bunnymen are back in my bed again. I have forgiven their lazy loving, and I have deposited some coinage in their karma bank so they can have a little slack the next time they forget how much I like chocolate. In two words, they rocked.
The band was its best in its skuzzier moments, when they let their Velvet Underground fascination take center stage. Many of the songs from Siberia, like "Stormy Weather," "Scissors in the Sand," and "Of a Life", have a ragged edge to them when the production is stripped away, and when presented with Ian McCulloch's fucked-off swagger, you can just smell the sweat of dirty rock 'n' roll. In fact, the only real misstep of the night was when they played one of my favorite songs, "Bring on the Dancing Horses," because it's placement in the set just didn't fit. It was like they carved one side of the turkey with a rusty, serrated blade, then the middle with a very fancy, very expensive, super sharp knife, and then went right back to the more dangerous one. A punch, a kiss, a kick.
McCulloch also wasn't able to pull off a sing-along during "The Killing Moon." Part of it was that no one could understand what he was saying. His accent was way too thick, and any commentary he tried to provide through the evening passed without audience comprehension. But he's also no Dave Gahan. "I wanna hear you sing it!" doesn't sound right coming out of his pouty lips.
The evening's highlights came in the encore. First, an epic medley of "Nothing Lasts Forever" and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," with just a smidgen of "In The Midnight Hour." It was an amazing combination. The second was the finale, a soft performance of "Ocean Rain." Heavenly.
Funnily, I saw a couple of boys in the crowd that reminded myself of my friend Christopher and I way back when. There was me standing there, awkward and shy and hiding behind too much style, and there was him, a little overweight, anti-style, maybe a little unsure. Irony is, now I have no style and have gone to hell, and Christopher is svelte and handsome and dresses sharp. How the years turn us!
But we saw an amazing gig at the old La Luna back in 1995, a triple bill of The Dandy Warhols, Echobelly, and Electrafixion, the band Ian McCulloch and Will Sargent formed before capitulating to their record company and reforming the Bunnymen, leaving behind a blistering, underappreciated album that far surpasses anything the new Bunnymen have done--as was that night's performance. (And in my love-hate thing, when Electrafixion came to Portland a second time months later, the show was awful, and the band as much as told us that they had given up when we talked to them after the show.) (And I also should note that at the time, Courtney Taylor of the Warhols, back when he had only one last name, did a hilarious impression of McCulloch's incomprehensible stage banter.)
Christopher and I were down front, at the center, right in front of McCulloch's microphone. In long instrumental breaks during the songs, McCulloch would crouch down and enter this sort of protective bubble, where he had his towel and his water and he could take a break from the performance, almost like he had descended beneath the stage. It was fascinating to watch. Standing, he was a rock animal; crouching, he was just a bloke doing his job. Christopher was wearing a Smiths Meat is Murder T-shirt, and McCulloch pointed at it, then motioned with his thumb up and down, asking for Christopher's verdict of the record. Obviously, Christopher gave him the thumbs up, and McCulloch nodded and gave him the thumbs up back--though, for some strange reason Christopher thought Ian was disusing The Smiths, and we had to tell him it was untrue.
I wonder how long Echo & the Bunnymen will still be around? Long enough for this new Christopher and Jamie to have the sort of "remember when" moment I had?
Current Soundtrack: Echo & the Bunnymen, Siberia; 11:00 PM news
Current Mood: drained
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich