Report: Echo & Bunnymen Live in NYC

Tackling their first two, stone-classic, albums before
a wildly enthusiastic crowd at Irving Plaza on May 14, the lads from Liverpool
were once again timeless.

 

By David Chiu

Echo and the Bunnymen must
have had that fog machine working overtime during their Saturday night show at New York’s Irving
Plaza. The Bunnymen were
practically enveloped in the thick haze and the lack of a direct spotlight on
the key players made them look like shadowy figures.   Yet those aspects of that evening’s staging
added a moody and mysterious aura that lent itself perfectly to the band’s dark
and intense post-punk rock music.

 

 

The occasion for the Bunnymen
show was special because their first two albums, Crocodiles and Heaven
Up Here
, are celebrating 30th anniversaries. (Crocodiles turns 31 this year, having been released in 1980.) To mark those milestones,
the band – fronted by founding Bunnymen members Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant
– performed those two records live in their entirety, much to the satisfaction
of the New York
crowd

 

Saturday’s show was the
second of two nights of the Bunnymen at Irving Plaza.
It got off to a pretty explosive start with “Going Down,” the opening track of
the Crocodiles album and it kind of
set the tone for the first half of the concert: flawless, pummeling rock. The
performance of “Monkeys” was bone-crunching and electrifying; the songs
“Crocodiles” and Villiers Terrace” evoked a sense of urgency; the melodic
“Rescue” got some of the audience members jumping; and “Pictures on My Wall”
was atmospheric.

 

The Heaven Up Here set
opened with the doomy disco-influenced “Show of Strength,” followed by “With a
Hip,” a bluesy-sounding stomp rock whose tension heightened by Sergeant’s fast
repeating guitar lines. The aggression continued with the song “Heaven Up
Here,” rendered as a burning punk-metallic rocker, along with “No Dark Things.”
Amidst the up-tempo rock was a few slower numbers such as “The Disease” and
“All My Colours.”

 

The music performed that
night wasn’t just from Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here; the band
also sneaked in other songs from their catalog in between sets: the punkish
garage rock of “Do It Clean”; the melodic and groove-oriented “Bring on the
Dancing Horses”; and the reflective ballad “Nothing Lasts Forever,” which
segued into Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side.” And for the encore following Heaven
Up Here
, the Bunnymen played the poppy “Lips Like Sugar.”

 

From the moment they kicked
off the show with “Going Up,” the Bunnymen played with both directness and
vigor. Sergeant’s atmospheric and piercing guitar lines certainly highlighted a
distinct part of the Bunnymen sound. McCulloch is somewhat of a puzzle:  His casual banter and in-between song chats
with the audience revealed a persona similar to that of a lounge singer. Yet
his deep and soulful singing sounds ageless betraying the fact he’s been doing
this for over 30 years.

 

Certainly the nostalgia and
novelty element of performing two early Bunnymen albums were key factors that
made the show a success. But it’s not like the band had to do that-their most
recent album, The Fountain, was a strong work that proved they still
have mileage in them. But if anything, the performances of Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here were a reminder of the timelessness of the Bunnymen’s
music.

 

[Live photo by David Chiu]

 

 

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