15 November 2019 (gig)
01 December 2019
Fact: Echo and the Bunnymen is without doubt in the top 10 of band names. Fact: Ian McCulloch used to scare the bejesus out of me such was his enigmatic yet menacing presence on TV or even just in print. Fact: E & the B’s single releases in the 80’s simply stand out and as a body of work are second to none. Fact: This band influenced many a 90’s/00 band either musically and visually or by their attitude and stance on the British music scene as Oasis, Interpol, Richard Ashcroft, Coldplay exemplify. Fact: We are at the Teatro Reggio, the majestic main opera theatre of Parma where the band are about to perform as part of the Barezzi Festival, one, dedicated to Giuseppe Verdi and promoting performance art.
It’s a packed crowd with fans, regular theatre goers, curious onlookers and event seekers all present and indeed, even for this band which has travelled many a road, tonight must be deemed a most prestigious, if rather unusual event considering the setting.
The band take to the stage with Will Sergeant and his guitars centre left, bass, rhythm guitar and drums centre right and Ian McCulloch centre stage. Mac’s wearing a black leather jacket, dark blue jeans and black boots, still very skinny and with the same 80’s style haircut and trademark shades. Seemingly rather bewildered as to why they are actually here and why everyone is sitting down with the orchestra pit area empty in front of the big stage, he says relatively little tonight in between songs, maybe because of that, but it becomes very apparent soon after the band open with ‘Going Up’ from the ‘Crocodiles’ album, that they are on splendid form and the theatre’s acoustics are perfect for their tight but lush post punk moody groove.
Ian Mac with his Jim Morrison stance is still the master at being “British cool” at the mike stand and so, even though there are no special effects bar some clever lighting, his presence has a certain magnetism and his vocal delivery and trademark warbles are spot on. He does somehow transform a white towel into a make do football and with nonchalance, hoofs it over the orchestra pit into the arms of a girl seated in the first row of this nearly 200 year old theatre , a first I’m sure.
But the night really belongs to Will Sergeant. His deftness of touch combined with an intent in finding an elegant, rich sound means that his guitar sound engulfs the heavy drum and bass pull and push beat and Mac’s silver toned vocals, and it is this that raises the bar and elevates the musicality of Echo & The Bunnymen to high performance levels.
The set has many a Bunnymen classic of course but also many a nod to all the influences that made the band seem so complete. “Roadhouse Blues”, “Walk On the Wild Side” ( or rather “Parma walk on the Merseyside”) and “In The Midnight Hour” are integrated into their own songs as well as Ian singing snippets of Beatles and Bowie lyrics. “The Killing Moon” is introduced as “The Greatest Song Ever” and is indeed magnificent and “The Cutter” that close the main set, still as upfront, savage and yet as engaging as a Tarantino film, is a real buzz.
Encores include “Lips Like Sugar” and “Do It Clean” and ending with the beautiful “Ocean Rain”. It’s been a strange evening for everyone involved but fulfilling for the audience and I hope, for the band too, who seem to be rather less unsure compared to when they took to the stage thanks to the appreciative audience and I expect, wonder at the marvellous acoustics of the show.
A most pleasing experience indeed, linking Giuseppe Verdi to The Bunnymen in a most original and extraordinary way.
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
All That Jazz
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over The Wall
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues
Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk on the Wild Side / In the Midnight Hour
Bring on the Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon
Lips Like Sugar
Do It Clean / Ocean Rain