The first thing surprising about tonight’s show comes in the form of the support. The name “Ester Drang” conjures up the idea of a female solo artist, so when 5 guys cut from the same cloth as My Morning Jacket or Midlake step out on stage, it’s not what you expected. Still, the recently resurrected post-rockers from Tulsa put on a storming start to the show, beginning in a somewhat blissed-out shoegaze manner before the set builds to a grand crescendo, culminating in blazing strobe lights and crashing drums. Great stuff.
The second surprise comes in the form of the huge crowd now assembled and waiting for first-wave stalwarts Echo & The Bunnymen (actually, being formed in 1978, they probably pre-date first-wave!). Hidden in amongst Osheaga and the Parc Jean Drapeau mega-shows and festivals highlighting the calendar at this time of year, you’d have been forgiven for missing this headline show in the listings; after all, smack-bang in the middle of festival season isn’t usually the optimal time to hit the road by yourself. Still, Echo & The Bunnymen obviously knew they didn’t have to worry, and they were right; both floor and balcony of Théatre Corona are packed by the time they take to the smokey, dark-lit stage.
Frontman Ian McCulloch leads off with “Bon soir Montreal, ça va? Dass about awl me French!!!” in the most Scouse (Liverpool) accent you will hear this side of the Atlantic all year, before launching into furious set opener Going Up. The familiar riffs of Rescue follow next, eliciting huge cheers from around the venue, as Ian strolls around with the kind of stage swagger you thought had originated with Liam Gallagher. Villiers Terrace is followed by the vicious machine-gun drums of All That Jazz, before Seven Seas and its quintessentially first-wave Joy Division-esque bassline keep up the impressive momentum the set already has. The epic Bedbugs and Ballyhoo and a ferocious Over The Wall book-end the more folky All My Colours. Guitarist Will Sergeant shreds the riff of Never Stop, which sounds as fresh today as it did in 1983, and then Ian gets the crowd singing the chorus on multiple occasions on Bring On The Dancing Horses, after which he proclaims “thanks, yer sounded great there!!”
The poignant Nothing Lasts Forever comes next, an epic song made even more epic by throwing in snippets of Walk On The Wild Side and The Midnight Hour in the outro, as well as a few amusing impressions of The Beatles, although replacing “take a walk on the wild side” at one point with “take a walk on Merseyside” goes over the heads of most people! The Killing Moon and the pulsating bass of The Cutter round off the main set in grandiose fashion, with Ian again dropping back from the mic to let the crowd sing huge chunks of the chorus.
They return with three encores of one song each. First up is an extended 10-minute version of arguably their signature tune Lips Like Sugar, during which Ian rolls stage towels into footballs and boots them into the crowd, much to the delight of the quick-handed who manage to catch them. Prior to the mellow Ocean Rain, he declares “you lot piss over Vancouver and Toronto!”, which is obviously greeted with huge roars of approval, before Do It Clean affords all the opportunity to rock out one last time before the band leaves the stage for good after 85 fantastic minutes. Almost 40 years into their existence, Echo & The Bunnymen sound as fresh as ever.
Villiers Terrace/Roadhouse Blues
All That Jazz
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over the Wall
Bring On the Dancing Horses
Nothing Ever Last Forever (with snippets of Walk on the Wild Side/The Midnight Hour)
The Killing Moon
Lips Like Sugar
Do It Clean
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Kieron Yates