Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisThere was a time in the early 80s when the U.K. critics' darlings Echo & the Bunnymen started seeping in the United States with its hypnotic blend of psychedelic inspired post punk and new wave. The trickle effect began with an entrancing single called "The Cutter" followed by "The Killing Moon" and reached a fevered pitch come the 1985 single "Bring On the Dancing Horses" (immortalized thanks to the "Pretty In Pink" soundtrack). While the John Hughes movie score pitted them next to groups like INXS, The Smiths, New Order and The Psychedelic Furs, the group never exploded to the degree of those acts, though they did find additional stateside respect with the 1987 smash "Lips Like Sugar." And even though that attention hasn't been matched since and membership has shifted throughout the years, Echo & the Bunnymen circa 2005 continue to tour in front of an adoring fan base and a receptive rock press.
Unlike the Furs who perpetuate a greatest hits jukebox or peers like Simple Minds (who've turned terrible) and The Church (who've dabbled with various forms of experimentation) the Bunnymen are creatively consistent and true to the sound in which members started. Modern recordings are right in step with the past while adapting to the current spectrum without sounding like directionless dinosaurs. (Heck, Coldplay adores the guys and Oasis even looks like them!) Several specific cases in point are replete throughout 2005's Siberia (Cooking Vinyl), which is the reason the group's on the road all fall and winter. As selections from that project were mixed in with the group's catalogue, it was clear key members Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant haven't skipped a beat or missed a single step.
For the fresh "Stormy Weather" (the album's opener placed third in the set list) the sextet combined swirling guitars, a brisk backbeat and McCulloch's unmistakable vocal shudders. Those elements were further preserved throughout "Scissors in the Sand," a momentum building axe grinder that could've come straight from the current wave of New York based 80s revivalists. But by the anthemic oldies like "Never Stop" and an acoustic tinted "The Killing Moon," the gang reminded the audience they were one of that style's early architects rather than trendy wannabes jumping on the bandwagon.
As the set progressed, so did the level of familiarity, covering the bulk of the group's Seven Seas retrospective released on Warner Platinum earlier this year. "The Back of Love" connected with its booming bass bounce and escalating alternative rhythms, "All That Jazz" coasted with ultra cool electric ambiance and "Villiers Terrace" sliced and diced with schizophrenic abandon. A couple covers also sneaked into the mix, such as snippets of The Doors' trippy "Roadhouse Blues" and Lou Reed's smoke filled "Walk On the Wild Side." An obvious fan favorite was "Bring On the Dancing Horses" due to its general pop culture connection, though "The Cutter" came across with much more insistence, closing out the initial portion of the show with dreamy chord patterns, glistening keyboard dings and hooks galore. From there, the last major chapter presented was "Lips Like Sugar," a devilish ode of mystery, intrigue and romance centered around the main characters' leading lavish lady. As the audience danced and obviously dug what was going on, McCulloch in all his cocky glory stared directly into the crowd as they sang fervently, reiterating how well the tune has held up in time. The same could be said about the rest of Echo & the Bunnymen's catalogue- and probably Siberia as well once it ages- additionally affirmed by a non-stop ninety minutes of viability and substance on stage.
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