LIVE: Echo and the Bunnymen – Mandela Hall, Belfast

DSC_1200m DSC_1218mb DSC_1232m DSC_1246m DSC_1254m DSC_1261mb DSC_1307mb DSC_1314mEnglish rockers Echo & the Bunnymen formed in Liverpool in 1978, famous for famous hits such as  ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’, The Cutter and The Killing Moon tonight stopped off in Belfast on their current UK tour.

The bands original line-up consisted of vocalist Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant and bass player Les Pattinson, and later Pete de Freitas who became the drummer. In 1980 the band released their debut album ‘Crocodiles’ which charted at number 17. McCulloch left the band to pursue a solo career in 1988 and in 1989 drummer de Freitas was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. In 1997 Echo & the Bunnymen regrouped and returned with their UK Top 10 hit “Nothing Lasts Forever”.

Meteorites is the bands 12th album, one which McCulloch claims “I wrote from the soul, more so than the heart and the brain,” 18 years after they reformed, they opened their current UK tour in Newcastle earlier this month and tonight bring their live show to The Mandela Hall Belfast, with the only other original member still in the band guitarist Will Sergeant. The Mandela Hall venue was great for this show, very intimate for a gig which gives fans a chance to get closer to the band. Described as post-punk, neo-psychedelic, alternative rock, new wave and maybe more, Echo and the Bunnymen mix all these genres together beautifully.

An Iconic band in the 80s, yet still irrelevant, much loved and supported today by their loyal fans, this showed in Belfast as a packed Mandela Hall cheered as the band walked onto the stage. McCulloch in his trademark dark glasses and spiky hair went straight into ‘Crocodiles’ from their debut album with its punky sound and chunky guitar riffs and smashing drums with lyrics such as ‘I see you got the blues in your alligator shoes’ followed by Rescue, their first single to chart and another from their debut album, giving the crowd early Echo and the Bunnymen classics, Will Sergeant was settling in nicely on the lead guitar and as Ian took a break in vocals Will was able to showcase his talent on guitar as he grooved away. Villiers Terrace ft The Doors Roadhouse Blue was fantastic, the keys got to standout on this one.

Meteorites from the new album slotted well into the set with McCulloch’s supreme confidence in vocals and backed by Its military style drumbeat and the brilliant Sergeant on guitar, it didn’t sound unlike one of the bands older songs, Ian’s soft rock voice during this song brought it to life even though it slowed the set list down a little, but was still enjoyable.

Seven seas from the 1984 album Ocean Rain saw the crowd come to life again before the brilliant Bed Bugs and Ballyhoo, featuring a night dance vibe from the keyboard with the added acoustic guitar and bass there was a great vibe to this song which sounded brilliant live and gave the fans in the Mandela Hall the chance to dance to Echo and the Bunnymen.

People Are Strange saw the band come together brilliant musically with upbeat melodies from the keys, guitar and drums whilst Ian even got to have a puff on his electronic cigarette before Holy Moses another song from the new album appeared. Holy Moses shows the band can still produce a great song and Ian’s raspy voice on this one adds to the song as the crowd sang along with him.

The lights dimmed as Over The Wall was up next, Constantinople another new song followed as they rocked the night with a mix of songs. Ian was in fine form with the crowd, interacting and having a joke in his thick scouse accent whilst sexing up his lyrics and adding to the songs with lyrics from some of his favourite artists.

Then three of the bands biggest hits and some of the greatest songs of the 80s was up next on the set list.

Bring On The Dancing horses, Killing Moon and The Cutter, these three songs in a row had the crowd onside and would have brought memories flooding back to them as they sang and danced along to these classics as the band showcased their talent and sound with Will Sergeant outstanding on guitar. The band then disappeared before returning for their encore.

Closing the set with one of the bands biggest hit’s and opened by an acoustic guitar Ian and the crowd sang as one along to Nothing Lasts Forever which also featured Lou Reeds, Walk On The Wild Side. Ending the night and a superb live performance was the fantastic Lips Like Sugar where Will Sergeant on guitar and the fellow guitarists got to shine, these guys showed their not just here for to relive their past, the Bunnymen proved their not just a flashback from the 80’s with a fantastic set list, front man with brilliant vocals and a great live band, Echo and the Bunnymen live is as good as anyone in today’s music. Having been too young to witness the band in their prime and hear their songs growing up, to hear these tracks now was great and to me this stuff is still relevant and has stood the test of time.

Bring On The Dancing Horses, Killing Moon, Cutter, Rescue, are all fantastic songs featuring great guitars, synths and Ian McCulloch’s distinctive vocals which give them their own edgy sound that still cuts it today. Brian Alcorn, GiggingNI.com