Thursday, 29 September 2011

Echo and the Bunnymen: Symphony Hall 2011

[Attended on Sunday 25th September]

 Shrouded in a cloak of twirling mist, a figure steps out into the blue haze set across the stage, clad in a jet black anorak, and shades, masking the eyes so seldom seen these days of Echo and the Bunnymen front man, Ian McCulloch.
 The band were preceded onto the stage by a group of talented, young, female violinists, setting the atmosphere for the night with their impeccable string work to something unforgettable. (Although between you and me, in terms of violinists they have nothing on Emilie Autumn…)
  The first time I can recall hearing the Bunnymen would have been when I was about 6 years old and was introduced to the iconic 80s vampire flick; The Lost Boys. It instantly became a favourite of mine and still is to this day. Echo and the Bunnymen sung the opening song; a cover of the Door’s classic, ‘People Are Strange’. 

 Now, I’d usually go by the idea that the originals are always better, but Echo and the Bunnymen bring something to that song that the Doors didn’t quite do for me. Something a little bit darker and more mysterious, but then maybe it was just that the film gave the song a little more context for me?

 Both my parents like the Bunnymen too, my mom probably more so; so I assume at some point in my early childhood before the Lost Boys influential exposure on me I would have heard them. Along with the other indie bands of the 80s I’m so fond of, (at least what indie was and still should be, not the crap that gets labelled indie now), the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths and Joy Division to name a few; when I listen to the Bunnymen I have a sense of familiarity and connection that I don’t really feel with as many current bands.

 Then along came Donnie. One of the most iconic films among young, misunderstood, broody teenagers; Donnie Darko was a film that easily resonated with me. The opening song; The Killing Moon, perhaps Echo and the Bunnymen’s most famous songs, is one of the greatest and influential songs I’ve ever heard. As with a lot of the Bunnymen’s songs to me the lyrics are often quite ambiguous due to their arty, and more likely than not, inebriated, background- but I think as with most music the listener finds their own meaning.

 McCulloch’s onstage persona is a little offbeat, but completely lovable non the less. The contrast between his alcohol induced slurred speech and the precision and crystal-clear clarity of this bird’s song are eye bogglingly stark…but I think that makes him even more of a triumph amongst the musical community; and hey- who can blame him for having a few tipples while he sings to 1000+ people?! To sing is to expose something very intimate about us to others, and to sing our own songs is even scarier a thought. I know I’d need it.

 Personally, I think McCulloch is un-tryingly clever, and there is definitely a pinch of naughtiness there judging from some of the things he mumbled to the audience, which is never a bad thing.

 I’m not sure if it was his accent or the drink, or the fact that about 50% of the audience might be approaching that dreary time in life where hearing aids might be a thing to consider, but I noticed quite a few people sat around me couldn’t actually understand a word he uttered. To me that’s a shame on their account, as the show wasn’t just about the music, but the chance to learn something more about the opinions of the musicians. 

  McCulloch certainly seems to know that being the front man not only gives you the voice to sing and inspire through song, but the voice to speak your mind about the world, and why shouldn’t he, we all have the right to voice our opinions, but he’s got a mic and some bloody loud speakers, which I presume help get his points across. He lashed out his truths with the tongue of a political viper, and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the audience would agree with him about the current situations our government are failing to handle, and the people who do have an influence across the nation not taking care of things quite the way that they should.

 The Bunnymen’s lyrics take you into the places in their heads, and feel the world through their eyes, with a sensual, serene, and somewhat detached nature. Despite the beauty in their songs I often feel an underlying sadness.

 The songs that I enjoyed most were, The Killing Moon, (which I think is a cert that the audience wanted to hear this one the most), Lips Like Sugar, (Which McCulloch rightly proclaimed to be one of the sexiest songs ever), Bedbugs and Ballyhoo, (which I just simply enjoy for it’s pairings and seemingly nonsensical lyrics), and lastly of course, Ocean Rain! There were a few songs that I wasn’t as familiar with, which is difficult for me to admit- but I also think that’s a good thing, the love I had for the Bunnymen was re-kindled with more to explore. Time to dig around for some more albums!

~ Queenie

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