Thursday, 29 July 2010

400 ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, Annie Christian, Newport Centre, Thursday 15 April 1999

The big 400! Another gig milestone achieved, and for this one, our hosts were Echo And The Bunnymen, my old "home team" and hosts of gig No. 2, all of 17 years and 132 days (I think!) ago! Also, to make it extra-special, this was Rachel's 24th birthday - she was marking the occasion by eating nothing but cake, all day! - so we drove down ready to rock!

Unfortunately, not too many others were; the huge Newport Centre auditorium was populated by about 2 dozen seated at the back, and myself and Rachel down the front, along with a clutch of 10 or so curious punters, for the early entrance of Annie Christian. Starting with their best number, "The Other Way", their set kicked some serious ass, in an amphetamine-fast, thrilling new punk kind of way. Vocalist Larry, resplendent in suave grey suit, was also entertaining, with his Darth Vader voice doll ("what is your bidding, master?"), and the band played a great, enthusiastic and spiky set to sadly little interest. Nevertheless, Rach and I rocked in our 2-badminton court-sized elbow room, totally pissing off the 3 girls down the front who thought they were the only ones there for Annie Christian!

Suddenly felt out of puff after their set, so we repaired to the bar, bumping into gig buddy Pete Golesworthy in the process! Back into the auditorium at 9 for the intended entrance of The Bunnymen, who kept us waiting for a predictably annoying 25 minutes, then took the stage to the usual baroque backing music and customary swathes of dry ice. The old classics flowed effortlessly, which more than made up for the more disappointing Bunny-by-numbers newies. Mac, glacially cool as ever, still touched the heights with his beautiful soaring voice, however the band don't have the majesty of the old Bunnymen line-ups of yore, especially the clumsy sounding drummer (Pete DeFreitas is sadly missed). Also, I wasn't sure what Mac was trying to achieve by calling for a 1 minute silence for Hillsborough, to try (in vain) to shut up a heckling punter.

However the songs came through strongly; the strident "Cutter", the funky "Bedbugs And Ballyhoo" and the as-ever thrilling "Do It Clean" were highlights, as was the touchingly desolate encore "Ocean Rain". Not touching former glorious heights, but I'm still glad they were my 400th!

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