Photo courtesy gussifer's Flickr:
"C-c-c-cucumber! C-c-c-cabage!" I never though I'd hear Echo & the Bunnymen do "Thorn of Crowns" again after seeing them on thier 1987 tour with New Order and Gene Loves Jezebel. Certainly not like this. Yet here I was, at the awe-inspiring Radio City Music Hall no less, seeing them perform it with a 16-piece orchestra. Holy crap. Lots of rock records employ orchestration, but few are as integral, as essential to their sound as 1984's Ocean Rain. Sure, every song is great, Ian McCulloch's vocals soar, Will Sergeant's guitarwork is intricate and beautiful, not to mention the killer rhythm section of Les Pattinson and Pete DeFreitas... but the strings kind of are the album.
This was a swoon-worthy night. The Bunnymen are 30 this year, hence this celebration of what they consider their crowning achievement with three shows: London, New York, and their hometown of Liverpool."The Killing Moon" is what a lot of people were there to hear, and many unbelievably left after that, but for me it was the album's more obscure gems that made my knees a bit weak. The sweeping drama of "Nocturnal Me." The genuinely weird "Thorn of Crowns." But mainly the utterly gorgeous songs like "My Kingdom" and the album's title track where the strings swept over us like gentle waves.
That said, it wasn't just violins and oboes. Ian McCulloch, decked out in standard sunglasses and sporting a weird, bulky sweater-coat thing, obviously trained for this, and his voice hasn't sounded this good since the Bunnymen's original run. Though it's only him and Sergeant left of the original lineup (drummer Defreitas died in 1989; bassist Pattinson bowed out in 1999, though part of me hoped he might come back for these gigs), the band assembled were obviously skilled but also seemed to dig the gig. The opening set of non-Ocean Rain classics was good too, though selections from earliest in their career would've benefited from a few less instruments. But when he hit all the notes singing "screaming from beneath the waves" on "Ocean Rain," it was worth the price of admission just for that.
Radio City, as a venue, can be vast but with the right band it is a magical place, and on a night like tonight I am truly glad to live in New York City.
SETLIST: Lips Like Sugar | Rescue | Bring on the Dancing Horses | I Think I Need it Too | All That Jazz | The Back of Love | All My Colours | People are strange | Nothing Lasts Forever/Walk on the Wild Side | The Cutter BREAK Silver | Nocturnal Me | Yo Yo Man | Thorn of Crowns | The Killing Moon | Seven Seas | My Kingdom | Ocean Rain
MP3: Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
(buy one of the best album of the last 25 years already!)
Earfarm was there too and shares some live MP3s from the show.
Opening was Scottish band Glasvegas whose debut hit the UK charts at #2 and has remained in the To 20 ever since. There was probably a nice crowd to see them, except they were scattered across the reserved seating instead of all being down in front, making it seem like something that just happened to be going on while people were finding their seats. Too bad, Glasvegas' '50s-rockabilly-croon-meets-JAMC-reverb-sheen sounded great in a giant hall like Radio City. This is music of the people, glass raised, drinking anthems set against an array of effects pedals and it totally works. Perhaps in a year the folks who were in the lobby downing $7 buds will claim they saw and loved them there first.
Glasvegas are on a very short US tour so if you can go see them, do. As good as they sounded at Radio City, I bet seeing them at the small clubs they're playing this time will be better.
Oct 2 Ottobar Baltimore, Maryland
Oct 3 Rock & Roll Hotel Washington, Washington DC
Oct 4 Mercury Lounge - SOLD OUT New York, New York