Into Live Music Review: Echo & The Bunnymen
Date: 14 September 2023
I’ve seen Echo & the Bunnymen live more times than I care to count and I know this, they can veer from breathtakingly fantastic to great and occasionally to just awful. Ask me my best and worst gig of all time and you’ll get the same response, Echo & the Bunnymen. Which version would turn up tonight in Scotland’s capital city?
This tour centred around the Ocean Rain album with the band accompanied by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for that paticular segment of the show. Rewind almost twelve years to the day and memories of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall gig come flooding back, a train-wreck of a show which coincidently was a tour celebrating Ocean Rain and featured an orchestra. History repeating itself? Let’s hope not.
The show was split into two parts, the first being a mini ‘best of’ featuring eight stone cold classics delivered with the band’s trademark swagger, style and no small amount of guile. From Stephen Brannan’s powering basslines on All That Jazz to Will Sergeant’s guitar wizardry on Rescue the seven-piece were off and running in determined fashion. Of course, front and centre, Ian McCulloch exudes coolness without even really trying. A shimmy of the hips during Bedbugs and Ballyhoo and before you know it many in the arena are out of their seats, flaying and cutting shapes to the grooves from up on stage.
The addition of a cello player was inspired, none more so than on Zimbo (All My Colours), the drums primal, and the cello strings cutting through emphatically. Nothing Lasts Forever reached new heights, McCulloch segues into Walk On The Wild Side part way through before bringing it back again.
A short break sees the twenty-strong orchestra, with conductor, take their place before the band take on ‘The greatest album ever made’. The next fifty minutes or so are laced with moments that will live long in the memory, the songs elevated to new heights, soaring upwards in the cavernous Usher Hall. Mac’s vocals true, rich and melodic. Will changing guitars regularly. Cutting up, playing mini-shards of auditory implosions that light up the room, while the orchestra add a different dimension, particularly with the urgency of Nocturnal Me, the added depth of Thorn Of Crowns, the subtleties of Seven Seas and the majesty of My Kingdom.
Last up was the album’s title song, Ocean Rain which was the highlight of the gig for me, Mac straining every vocal sinew with heartfelt emotion while Will’s guitar was like a sonic siren in the fog, the conductor steering the orchestra with finesse. Triumphant.
A two-song encore followed for what was the icing on the cake. Safe to say I can file this gig away in the breathtaking category, not many can do that these days but Echo & the Bunnymen can. Go see them if you get the chance.