Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Echo and the Bunnymen in Oxford

In theory, I am very opposed to bands going out on tour playing entire "classic" albums. Yet quite a few bands I like have succumed to this. Sonic Youth played Daydream Nation, the Stooges have been touring Raw Power, last week Primal Scream were out playing Screamadelic. All of which could be fine. Yet I feel somewhat negative about the whole idea.

So it is with some trepidation that I go and see Echo and the Bunnymen playing the whole of Crocodiles and Heaven up Here, at the O2 in Oxford (the old Zodiac). At a certain point in 1981, I would have said that these two albums were perhaps my all time favourites. I saw the tour for Heaven up Here, the one with all the netting and camo gear and it was stupendously good. I loved the third album, Porcupine, but absolutely hated Ocean Rain, and more or less gave up on the band then. I have little idea what they have done in the meantime. Such a short time period between being my favourites and being uninterested. I put it down the sort of dark, brooding phase that teenagers go through. I even owned a donkey jacket!

An old memory from the distant past: It is Easter 1982 and my parents (and dog) have gone to the Lake District for a week and I have the house to myself. My new friend Jude has been visiting. She is a year older and me and in her second year studying Philosophy and Literature at Keele University. We have hit it off immediately on meeting. She likes David Bowie and we both love Crocodiles. We listen to music and talk about philosophy and literature. We get drunk on red wine and (sometimes) port. We watch movies (Diva is a favourite). And if she has visited her sister in Coventry, we are sometimes able to spend the days getting stoned. We play Crocodiles repeatedly. When McCulloch sings "I've been up to Villiers Terrace" we reply loudly, "We've been in a daze for days" and fall about giggling. Happy times . . . .

Another memory of Jude - once a group of us were in the Wine Bar in town and, during a brief lull in conversation, Jude announced that her pubic hair had been styled into a heart shape and when this was greeted with some scepticism, I was asked to vouch for her. I confirmed the fact and suggested that it was actually quite romantic!

And so to Echo and the Bunnymen last night. Actually the gig is really good in a hugely nostalgic way. From the first guitar effects from Will Sargeant, there is a deep rich sound (an extra rythmn guitarist and keyboard player help). Going up, Stars are Stars, are quite wonderful. A short while later, the sequence Crocodiles, Rescue, Villiers Terrace, and Pictures on my Wall bring back many happy memories. The band are shielded by banks of dry ice, but are dressed exactly per the 1980s show I last saw. Ian McCulloch remains pretty odd. "What is going on in his head?" asks someone near me - who knows, it is very unclear.

Then onto Heaven up here. A great rendition of Show of Strength, a blistering title track, and a poignant The Disease. All my Colours and (especially) Turquoise Days also stand out. A short break, then an encore of other material. Lips, which I quite liked, and a fine The Cutter.

So my fears were perhaps allayed. True it is total nostalga - a glance back at a life I had 30 years ago. But perhaps that is no bad thing once in a while. Now perhaps the original line up of Siouxsie and the Banshees might reform and play The Scream?

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