Every now and then a band tours Amsterdam that I feel I should know more about. The most recent one came in the form of Echo and the Bunnymen (EATBM).
I have a concert going rule (well I have many actually, but this is one of them), and this is that if one of my friends suggests to me that I should go and see a band with them, then I will try and do my best to go along and see the gig. This forms an extension of the fact that I like my friends and they should have a bit of an idea of what music I would or would not like.
So some time back a friend looked at the list of concerts I was going to and was shocked that I didn’t have EATBM down and he suggested we go along and so a plan was hatched that on a Saturday night in Amsterdam that we would venture to Paradiso and see if these aging musicians still had what it took to entertain me.
Now I am not going to lie to you, I have never been a fan of EATBM, its not that I was not a fan, rather I have never been exposed to there music. What I do remember was that they were played on one of the radio stations back in Australia and that the name was familiar and that I felt I should really know more about this band. I really felt like there was a musical void in my knowledge that I needed to fill.
So pre gig I do what I usually do, I get hold of an album or two (in this case, a best of) and usually you tube them in the days leading up to the gig. This is more just to give me a flavor for the band, and it ensures that some of the songs sound familiar on the night. What I noticed from my limited listening is that a lot of the songs had a heavy dose of synthesizer and drum machine, I akin the music to that of Joy Division, so that was the rough expectation I had for the evening.
As the crowd in the main room of the Paradiso began to fill what became noticeable was that the average age was on the other side of forty and that this crowd defiantly had a love of leather. And it was leather of all colors, black, brown, red, blue and I even noticed a little bit of green leather on display at one point. This was the first time I though to myself that this might not be the total synthesizer fest that I originally thought I might be viewing that evening. What everyone did know was that the band planned to play in full the first two albums that they recorded “Crocodiles” and “Heaven up here”.
Following the support acts departure from the stage (who might I add were noticeably forgettable, but not bad) I returned to my spot for the evening, several beers in hand and it was then, as I downed the last of one of my beers that I noticed one of the rodies bringing out the onstage rider…..it consisted of milk, this is never a good sign. What was a good sign however was that the music which was being played were all great songs from the 80’s and 90’s and it was pitched right at the people who were waiting for EATBM and they were loving it. Maybe it was just a predetermined playlist that tours with the band, or maybe it was one if the DJ’s just reading the crowd but either way it was right on the money, with the Cure, and Joy Division getting a go and the crowed loving every moment of it.
The crowd built up nicely over the next few minutes until the opening track began and the band took the stage. Straight off the bat you could feel that this band was playing with a lot of “punk and roll” and that this was going to be a far more gutsy show then I ever saw coming. Going along with the punkish undertones was the camouflage netting (3 large nets) draped off the beautiful stain glass windows of the Paradiso. And the pitiful use of lighting which ensured that for the whole show you never saw Ian McCulloch face. One of my pet hates is when I pay money to see a show and I never actually get to see the face of the performing artist, that being said as this concert had a specific punk feel, therefore I was ok with the vibe that was delivered by never being able to see the aging face of Ian McCulloch.
The way that Ian greeted the crowd and told brief stories of his previous visits to Amsterdam and the state that this had left him drew me to the conclusion that its not a far stretch to see where Liam and Noel Galligher from Oasis may have taken some of their rockin role muse, if nothing for their on stage presence. Hey, they ripped off one massive scourser sound, in the form of the Beatles surely this in not that longer bow to draw here too?
What became very evident was that Ian’s voice was not going to last the gig out (hence the milk). The planned two albums (plus encore) looked less and less likely as the night progressed on. Therefore at approximately 30min into the gig around the end of the first album and several glasses of milk, the said thank you and left the stage for a break, promising to return again. This allowed some of the crowd to grab a drink or a smoke and everyone seemed happy to do so. I think in Australia if this had have happened the crowd would have get really upset, but tonight they were all just happy the band were giving it there all and that they were able to see anything at all.
After about a 25 minute break the band ventured back on the stage, then Ian indicated that they wanted to play the second album and then some crowd favorites but unfortunately to get to the crowd pleasers they would have to cut the second album short and back into it they went.
I was really struggling to think who does this guy sound like for the next few songs and then it dawned on me, it is sounding a hell of a lot like Joe Strummer, which was pretty dam good in my book. They belted through the second album (approx another 30 min) before heading back stage to return for the encore and Ian’s voice was noticeably getting worse at a rapid rate, and all the milk in the world would not stop that from happening.
The encore was pretty dam good. The first encore went for a couple of songs and the second one was just for one last song. The crowd were totally absorbed in every song and sang along as if everyone of them were up on stage with the band. also whilst his voice was clearly on the decline for the majority of the gig the band just kept on playing, after all this was a sold out gig at the Paradiso and they were not there to disappoint anyone.
All up it was pretty dam good show that the band put on and I am glad I got to see them and I don’t think I recognized any of the songs, well maybe a bit of one towards the end of the gig, or was it the beer talking? but that was it one song that I vaguely recognized but a whole concert of very good Punk n roll tunes to be enjoyed by all.
Everyone in the crowd seemed to walk out extremely happy with the bands performance and so was I, it was a memorable gig, and I was really glad to be there to see it. It had a lot of issues that could have resulted in a train wreck of a performance but it actually all went really well and given the chance of seeing them again (even if Ian has to take a regular breaks off stage and drink copious amounts of milk) I would jump at the chance.
Original posting on the Mokum Groupie website below:JV's Echo & the Bunnymen Review on Mokum Groupie