And while I'm going retro, who better to round off a trio of retro gigs, all at the Zodiac and all, oddly enough, without Rachel, than my first loves Echo And The Bunnymen? 7 years on from last sightings, when they were in the throes of producing frankly rubbish albums, we find them somewhat slightly rejuvenated; recent CD "Siberia", whilst still Bunny-by-numbers, knocked spots off all their other post-reformation records, and with so many of the better current crop of bands tipping their hats to them musically (Stills, Interpol, British Sea Power, even our Boston friends Dear Leader), it was time to catch up with them again. Still, given Mac's legendary arrogance and advancing years, I again wondered - is this gig going to be triumph or trainwreck?
Rach passed this one up for barn dancing instead, so I dropped her off then picked The Big Man - never the biggest Bunny fan but a curious, and drunk, observer tonight! - up from the Lava Lounge, where he'd spent the hottest day of the year imbibing! Parked up in Oxford, Rich got grub, then we hit the dry-ice choked venue at 20 to 8. C'mon guys, not so much of the dry ice, it's not the Albert Hall tonight, really!
Chilled in the bar during support Freemaker, whose competent doomy 80's rock recalled Editors, Interpol and the Killers. Scouse without the annoying quirkiness of recent bands from the 'pool (apart from one silly sea shanty about hurricanes), they also had a bit of brash swagger to them. One to watch, perhaps?
By now the place was full for this sell-out show, the air pregnant with anticipation. How much old stuff would we get? How is Mac onstage after all these years? Both questions were emphatically answered as the band took the stage at 9.15 (late, of course, and to the same old Gregorian monk chanting, as now appropriated by British Sea Power), Mac all big overcoat (on the hottest day of the year! Has the man not glands?) and spider plant haircut, sunglasses and attitude, as if he'd stepped out of 1984 to get in tonight. Then... the mysterious tones of "Going Up", the opener to their first album, started up, and we knew we were in for one of those very special nights.
It was wonderful to see my old "home team", my favourite band of my teenage rock discovery years and subconsciously the band against whom all others since then have been measured, resurrect themselves tonight in front of me. The off-kilter, intricate guitar work of guitarist Will Sargent and the glacial cool of McCulloch were ably backed up by a young 4-piece, doing justice to these epic rockist songs of my youth. That said, the set was somewhat restrained, until the rock steady "All That Jazz" sent shards of guitar noise resonating around the venue in brilliant fashion. The amphetamine rush of "Back Of Love" followed, and I was moshpit bound, a delirious camo-clad teen once again.
The crystalline beauty of "The Killing Moon" followed, Mac finally allowing his emotive voice to soar. "Villiers Terrace" merged into an unexpected version of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues", and the slow build of set closer "The Cutter" climaxed in a thrilling sing-along crescendo for me and the like-minded Bunny worshippers in the mosh.
We weren't finished there though - the underrated "Lips Like Sugar" saw Mac delve into Bowie's "Rock And Roll With Me", then a second encore saw a precise reading of the Velvet's "Waiting For The Man", before a desolate, touching "Ocean Rain" brought this extraordinary set to a close. So, Rich won over, myself vindicated, and the Bunnymen underlining their place in the pantheon of rock's true greats. Gig of 2006? Don't bet against it...
NB - I did get the set-list, but it was way too big to scan! Mac's legendary blindness still meant that he had to bend down before every song to read the oversized list! Anyway, the set read;
SHOW OF STRENGTH
SCISSORS IN THE SAND
ALL THAT JAZZ
THE BACK OF LOVE
THE KILLING MOON
IN THE MARGINS
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
LIPS LIKE SUGAR