Monday 27 March 2017

ROCK MUSIC

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN

John Meagher

John Meagher

oLYMPIA, DUBLIN

There is no longer a novelty about bands playing a favourite album live in its entirety. Echo & The Bunnymen have already dusted off previous records for the road, and now it's the turn of 1984's Ocean Rain -- grandiose and ambitious and, in retrospect, probably the most revered of their fine run of early albums.

Certainly, Ian McCulloch -- the Bunnymen's self-assured frontman -- has no doubts about Ocean Rain's legacy.

The Liverpudlian throws out self-aggrandising words like "classic" with such frequency even Kanye West would blanch.

With his mop of hair, permanently fixed sunglasses and simian strut, McCulloch's influence on a whole generation of mouthy Northern English frontmen -- Ian Brown, Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft among them -- is patently clear.

The lengthy show sees Ocean Rain bookended by career-spanning songs of wildly varying quality -- from sludgy, Doors-like exercises in pretension to material so inventive and erudite it beggars belief.

The first part takes its time to get going and it's not until the band are joined by an all-female string sextet that proceedings come close to matching McCulloch's lofty patter.

An early highlight is 'Rescue' -- a standout from their debut album, Crocodiles, which is delivered with panache.

Not for the first time, it suggests how big this band could have been had McCulloch and visionary guitarist Will Sergeant been blessed/cursed with the unshakeable ambition of U2 -- a group they famously revile.

After a short interval, it's time for the main event. The nine original songs on Ocean Rain are faithfully, beautifully realised with the string section providing some gorgeous orchestral manoeuvres in the dark.

'The Killing Moon' -- one of the greatest and most mysterious songs of the 1980s -- sounds especially compelling, while the title song, which ends this section, unseats most of those in the stalls.

Quite why the promoter -- or was it the band? -- insisted on downstairs seating is anyone's guess.

The conclusion is special, and the anthemic 'Nothing Lasts Forever' has some fighting back tears.

The night ends predictably, but spectacularly, with another of their enigmatic, and much adored, compositions, 'The Cutter'.

It showcases a venerable band at their very best.

Irish Independent

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