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The Crack Magazine

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Echo and The Bunnymen at O2 City Hall

Echo and The Bunnymen are back on the road with their ‘Songs to Learn and Sing 2024’ tour which sees them travelling throughout the UK and then through continental Europe and the States before returning to these shores in August. A long and exhausting mammoth tour which would certainly task any much younger group. Undoubtedly, it will be a testing itinerary for both guitarist Will Sergeant and vocalist Ian McCulloch as well as their current bandmates namely bassist Stephen Brannan, drummer Simon Finley, rhythm guitarist Peter Riley and keyboard player Mike Smith. This tour appears to be a tribute to the band’s legacy as it was named after their 1985 compilation album which featured many of the band’s greatest and most popular singles. It was pleasing to note that Echo and the Bunnymen were clearly glad to be back at Newcastle City Hall and as is customary Ian McCulloch always like to banter with the crowd and recalled early on how he travelled to Newcastle City Hall to see David Bowie from way high up in the balcony. He began the gig with his distinctive voice soaring through the set as he stood dark and brooding in the shadows of bright lights with his imposing silhouette initially captivating the expectant crowd.

The Liverpool band played two enjoyable sets starting off with Going Up, All That Jazz, Flowers, All My Colours (Zimbo), Villiers Terrace, Rescue, Brussels Is Haunted, Never Stop and finally before the short 10 minute break a crowd favourite namely the iconic charming melody of Bring On the Dancing Horses. This had the capacity crowd jumping up with hands in the air and singing along to allow Ian McCulloch`s vocal chords to have a well earned breather before the band launched into their full on performance of the song.

Following the short break with Ian McCulloch even advising the crowd to get to the bar beforehand, the second set started with Show of Strength, Over the Wall, the haunting and popular Seven Seas, Nothing Lasts Forever which beautifully morphed into a cover of Lou Reed’s iconic Walk on the Wild Side with all the crowd singing the chorus line. Of course, there are then massive highlights and not unexpectedly these included “The Killing Moon" which is among their most popular and intoxicating songs. The haunting lyrics were written and sung by Ian McCulloch and it was released on their 1984 album Ocean Rain and the crowd quickly launched into “Under blue moon, I saw you So soon you'll take me Up in your arms, too late to beg you” as the first chords rang out. They then kicked straight into another big hitter with ‘The Cutter’ with Will Sergeants staccato pulse hitting guitar riffs getting the North East audience into one of palpable frenzied excitement at this point in the night. Again, Ian McCulloch paused to allow fans to sing along loudly to these favourites and fill the venue with their voices during this more theatrical segment of the set.

Echo and the Bunnymen's dark, swirling fusion of gloomy post-punk and Doors inspired psychedelia is invariably driven by the majestic voice and persona of singer Ian McCulloch and the frequently brilliant guitar work of Will Sergeant. As such, it was not surprising at all that other highlights reflected this influence and included an introduction of the iconic Doors Roadhouse Blues with everyone bellowing out the immortal words “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”. Following the second set, the band left the stage once again, returning for an immense performance of ‘Lips Like Sugar’. They then ended their gig with the much mellower track, ‘Ocean Rain’ which is the title track of the exquisite career-best album they released 40 years ago this May. Echo and The Bunnymen have once again proved at Newcastle City Hall with this tour that they still have it, putting on a stellar performance almost 50 years after the band initially formed. A cracking gig that will be long remembered by the North East faithful with hopefully many more like it in the future. 

Stewart Douglas

Pic: Roger Sargent

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