Thursday, October 9, 2008

Echo and the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain at Radio City Music Hall. New York City. 10.01.08

Last week was quiet 'round these parts while I visited the great old city of New York, in part to see Echo and the Bunnymen at the huge and beautiful Radio City Music Hall. The venue itself, if you've never been, is quite grand a theater; lighting fluxuated between a violet matching the cover of Ocean Rain and a darkness which allowed for the venue's cream shell of a ceiling to be lit with shadows to the point where it appeared this jagged wall of grey and black - Berlin epitomized, as I imagine Berlin as a color and shape.

Early on in the show, Glasvegas all in black spewed forth a big wave of doo-wop shoegaze (a decent impression of the My Bloody Valentine/Jesus and Mary Chain formula over a timid partnership of tom and snare), and vocalist James Allan shared in a thick Scottish accent that he'd wanted to open for the Bunnymen mainly as an opportunity to watch them play for free. Quite a fair deal, I'd say. As for Glasvegas themselves, their dreamy pop would have been a nice jumpstart to the show were it not for the oddly Californian accent that replaces Allan's speaking voice when he sings. That, and their being labeled "that fuckin' band" by a fellow sitting nearby.

It's likely that Allan, however, would have gladly paid the $40-60 to see Echo and the Bunnymen play this night, as they were phenomenal and filled, perfectly, even a space so large and impressive as Radio City Music Hall. This also happened to be the only date on which the band was to play its 1984 record Ocean Rain in its entirety during a U.S. performance, which made it a special occasion.

Ian McCulloch, owner of the lips, from the third mezzanine resembled the Pogues' Shane MacGowan from the same distance, sort of the anonymous figure in a shapeless black coat, lumbering about in some awkward effort to half-dance on occasion. Thing is, with McCulloch, you've at least got the understanding that he's retained more of his looks and - certainly - more of his teeth. He's also got his voice, though, full and gorgeous as ever (due to his quitting cigarettes, said the man referring to Glasvegas as "that fuckin' band"). He can go low these days, but flawlessly cry out as well.

The band's set was divided by a brief intermission - at first, the hits, from "Lips Like Sugar" to a big, thundering rendition of "The Cutter." Between the two, among others, were "Bring on the Dancing Horses," incredible highlight "The Disease," which nearly sounded to have the orchestra behind it which would appear for Ocean Rain, and the fantastic "Nothing Lasts Forever," melted into a medley with "Walk on the Wild Side."

Post-intermission, the orchestra arrived to give Ocean Rain this fantastic fullness that perhaps made the album even better live than in its original recording. It held up - though the songs sounded of their time, there is nothing gaudy or dated about Echo and the Bunnymen, and McCulloch really carries, even today, a heavy romantic quality that ties the band together beautifully. Most pleasing was the second (and my personal favorite) track, "Nocturnal Me," thick with sharp strings and a confident march, so much power and romance. And closer "Ocean Rain," drawing a standing ovation from most, was elegant enough for any decade.

But McCulloch also made a habit of singing whilst draping about a bit of black fabric (like Meatloaf sans microphone stand, I suppose), and after throwing it toward the front of the stage, some unlucky man up front reached over and grabbed it, only to be escorted off and away. A beautiful concert for thousands, but a sad night for a sad bastard in the audience.

Echo and the Bunnymen - Nocturnal Me

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