Photography: John Johnson / johnjohnson-photography.com
Philharmonic Hall 20/2/15

“Life takes its toll, cursed by mortality” Ian McCullough sings on the title track of last year’s Meteorites. It’s heavy subject matter that ECHO AND BUNNYMEN have rarely shied away from, from their tenure as leading lights of 80s post-punk through their 90s Nothing Lasts Forever revival, right through to their recent return to familiarly anthemic pop. However, now in their forth decade of existence, are the Bunnymen beginning to fear the reaper?

Things start off promisingly enough, with a trio of early career favourites sounding as fresh anything else being played across a city buzzing with top-quality gigs on this particular weekend. However, the decidedly middle-aged crowd remain seated, quietly appreciating the spiky, acerbic classics.

It takes Seven Seas, tonight’s sixth song, to bring the entire auditorium to their feet and it is there they remain for the rest of the evening. There’s a reciprocal love that adds an extra dimension to a set bursting with top-drawer counter-cultural gems. “There’s nothing better than getting applause in your home town,” the normally rambunctious McCullough declares at one point.

 

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While beer paunches and bald patches are liberally sprinkled throughout tonight’s crowd, McCullough’s voice shows no sign of succumbing to middle age. Over The Wall is repeatedly requested and the Bunnymen oblige mid-way through the set and the soaring vocal is dealt with with aplomb by both McCullough and the dancing gathering in front of the stage.

Tonight’s performance transcends trends and eras in many ways. The Bunnymen may no longer get many column inches in the more fickle music papers, but they have consistently created great music for the duration of their career. While tracks from their classic 80s albums Crocodiles, Ocean Rain and the eponymous 1987 LP raise neck hairs tonight, recent additions Holy Moses and Constantinople more than hold their own.

McCullough is not the only superstar on stage tonight, of course: guitarist Will Sergeant constantly demands our attention with virtuoso performances, most notably on the incendiary Villiers Terrace/Roadhouse Blues medley and the savage beauty of The Cutter. With claims of having written up to five of the best songs in pop music history, McCullough can be accused of hyperbole, but it is hard to argue when he affirms Sergeant as the best guitarist in the world. Despite reports of a certain animosity between the two, there is a requisite telepathy which enables McCullough’s lyrical meanderings into other various rock anthems to segue beautifully back into Bunnymen’s own impressive canon.

Two encores are rapturously received and McCullough says he could do it all again. You get the feeling that, their career will provide many more moments like tonight.

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