Wednesday 6 March 2024

Echo and the Bunnymen - O2 Academy, Bournemouth - 5th March 2024

I'd wanted to see Echo and the Bunnymen for some time, so when I saw they were playing the small O2 Academy venue in Bournemouth, I booked a ticket.

As it turned out, I was spending the night a few miles away, so it was a pleasantly short trip to the venue and back, although the £4 parking fee took me aback a little (and paled next to the £7+ for a pint of overly cold IPA at the venue!).

I arrived in plenty of time to catch the support act, a severe looking blonde woman by the name of Erica Nockalls.

She seemed a very pleasant person as she interacted with the audience between songs, but I'd have to say I found her 'experimental' music not to my taste and I wandered off to buy the aforementioned expensive pint a couple of songs in.

I could still see and hear her set, along with the guitarist/vocalist she performed with (who seemed to spend most of the time torturing his instrument), but I won't be making a trip to see her again, perhaps you'd enjoy it more.

After the usual on-stage sheenanigans, the band we'd come to see finally appeared about 9:10 (a few of the audience were getting impatient by then, but it's rock and roll, isn't it?).

While I was keen to see Echo and the Bunnymen, I certainly wouldn't call myself a diehard fan, only having their greatest hits album in my collection.

As the tour was dubbed the 'Songs to Learn and Sing' tour, though, I expected to recognise a lot of them, but having seen the setlist from Bristol, I didn't recognise all of the titles.

They started with one I didn't "Going Up", but the next one "All That Jazz" was an old favourite.

Oddly, I thought, they performed in two sets, with a 20 minute or so break in the middle, which I've rarely experienced and did leave most people just standing around, in fear of leaving a good spot, for a while.

"Rescue", "Never Stop" and "Bring on the Dancing Horses" featured in the first set along with a new song "Brussels is Haunted" (it was OK) and some others I didn't know, but others around me were singing along to, so were clearly known to them.

Between songs "Mac" chatted with the crowd. Sometimes he was a bit mumbled (he's a Liverpuddlian and joked about 'enunciating more clearly' at one point), but seemed in a fairly good humour.

The lead guitarist was a similar age and did a lot of the musical heavy lifting and a quick Goggle confirms he is an original band member, Will Sargent. The others on stage were all far too young to have been, but the overall sound on the songs I recognised was as true to the records as you'd expect a live performance to be, while retaining the energy that you want, so they all did a good job.

I'd heard criticism of Ian McCulloch's voice, but I don't think you'd ever call him a 'singer' and the distinctive sound of his voice was still there and still clear, so I have no complaints on that score either.

The lighting was a bit strange, plenty from behind the band, but very rarely were they actually lit from the front and only for a split second here and there. I've only ever really seen this at the tiny Boiler Room, where the spots tend to blind and roast the acts!

After the mid-set hiatus, they came back with another song I didn't know, but then debuted "Over The Wall" on this tour. "Seven Seas", one of their best known tracks followed, and most people seemed to know the words to "Nothing Lasts Forever", although it was a new one for me.

"Unstoppable Force" wasn't a song I knew either, but they rounded out with "Bedbugs and Ballyhoo", "The Killing Moon" and "The Cutter", the latter two their iconic songs.

After a fair wait, they did come back for an encore, an extended version of another old favourite, "Lips Like Sugar".

Overall, the sound quality was pretty good, the vocals were nicely balanced to the instruments, meaning you could hear both the tune and the words, something not everyone gets right and I've had reason to complain about at this venue before.

Perhaps, if I'd been a bigger fan, I'd have known more of the songs, but the ones I did recognise sounded pretty good.

I am glad I went and I enjoyed the gig, but, unlike many others there, I think once will probably be enough for me.

Set 1:
Going Up
All That Jazz
Brussels Is Haunted
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Never StopPlay Video
Bring On the Dancing Horses

Set 2:
Show of Strength
Over the Wall (Tour debut)
Seven Seas
Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk on the Wild Side
Unstoppable Force
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
The Killing Moon
The Cutter
Lips Like Sugar

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