Live Review: Echo & The Bunnymen / Erica Nockalls – Roundhouse, London 08.03.2024

Michael Hundertmark

Anticipation was high and queuing was early by dedicated fans for the Roundhouse and its long history of hosting iconic music shows in Camden. Tonight sees Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant perform a greatest hits tour, ’Songs To Learn and Sing 2024’, where the majority of the audience were in their teen years back in the 80’s when the band made its name.

The band formed in Liverpool back in 1978 and are widely seen as flying the flag high for the exploding post-punk scene which was erupting back in the day! By the time 1980 came the band were joined by drummer Pete de Freitas. ‘The Bunnymen’ were originally signed to David Balfe and future KLF Legend Bill Drummond’s Zoo Records. Their debut album ‘Crocodiles’ went into the top 20 UK chart and their cult status was followed by mainstream success with the hit single ‘The Cutter’. During their early days, the band played the Prince of Wales Conference Centre in London with Joy Division, where Seymour Stein from SIRE/American WEA signed them on the new Korova Record label.

The Current Bunnymen outfit strictly speaking only consists of Vocalist Ian McCulloch ‘Mac’ and Guitarist Will Sergeant the two founding members with Les Pattinson joining on Bass from 1978 to 1989 and then again the year 1996 to 1998 with Pete de Freitas on Drums from 1979 till his tragic motorcycle death in 1989. For this marathon tour, fit for a band in their early career, across Europe and then the States. McCulloch’s bandmates consist of bassist Stephen Brannan, Drummer Simon Finley, rhythm guitarist Peter Riley and Keyboard player Mike Smith.

Opening up this evening’s proceedings was singer songwriter Erica Nockalls with her partner Jean-Charles Versari who lives in Paris and has joined especially with the Bunnymen on this whole tour and as chosen by Ian McCulloch. Erica Nockalls has been a member of ‘The Wonder Stuff’ for two decades as well as a live fiddle player for ‘The Proclaimers.’ Her solo material is very cutting edge with generous synths and grimy drum machines with tracks played from her ‘Dark Music from a Warm Place’ album. Her training as a violist is evident with the experimental storytelling of her songs and soaring vocals, with House of Erica
having a dark synth laden Cocteau Twins feel! ‘Build Me A Ship’ takes on a dark industrial feel and captivates the audience, who are already present in large numbers!

Taking to the stage fifteen minutes late ‘The Bunnymen’ take stance in the familiar gloomy, smoke filled atmosphere with loyal fans packed into The Roundhouse in apprehension as to what to expect on tonight’s performance! With the chimes of ‘Going Up’ It is evident their impressive sound is still spot on and matched their mid-80’s rivals in a poetic way! McCulloch hits the right notes with a certain croakiness, probably due to the decades of tobacco use.

The edgier, more upbeat songs ‘Never Stop’ (from the 1983 Porcupine Album) and ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’ with tongue twisting lyrics the band have the stage bathed in red lights. The longish interval between the two sets could have been shorter to squeeze in a couple more fan favourites in. Two songs yet to appear on a record that are played tonight, the melancholic ‘Brussels is Haunted’ and ‘The Unstoppable Force suggest’ hinting a new studio album may be on its way!

The second set commenced with ‘Show of Strength’ with the bass and drums being tight and on par with the sounds of Joy Division! There is the abundance of magical moments towards the end with ‘The Killing Moon’ which Ian McCulloch describes as “the greatest song of all time” and a classic ‘The Cutter’. After The Bunnymen walked off stage for a while, the audience was treated to two encores tonight. The final being the inevitable ‘Ocean Rain’ a song released nearly 40 years ago.

With tonight’s show, Echo & the Bunnymen have lived up to their past with an incredibly enriching performance that has withstood the test of time!

Echo & the Bunnymen Set List:
Going Up
All That Jazz
Brussels is Haunted
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Never Stop
Bring On the Dancing Horses
SET 2:
Show of Strength
Over the Wall
Seven Seas
Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk on the Wild Side
Unstoppable Force
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
The Killing Moon
The Cutter

Lips Like Sugar

Ocean Rain

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