Live at The Academy, Newcastle

In the midst (or what some would hope is the tail end) of the great indie revival, here are two veterans who’s respective reformations pre-date the latest clutch of cash-in nostalgia acts. Echo and the Bunnymen have been touring pretty solidly since their 1997 return to prominence. And James, although they did their best to burn out with 1993’s experimental/forgettable Wah Wah, have managed to forge a successful touring and recording career since their reformation in 2007. Tonight they share a bill at the sold out Newcastle Academy. Newcastle is a city with many great venues: The Cluny, The Cumberland Arms, The Head of Steam, Heart Attack and Vine, Hoults Yards...the list goes on, but no matter how long the list, the list would never include the O2 academy, the McDonalds of music venues. To cut a long story short, the sound aint great, the place smells of disinfectant and sick and everywhere you go somebody is trying to sell you cheap luminous shots (hence the disinfectant and sick I mentioned earlier). Rant over. The Bunnymen are up first and as usual they stick to the hits, although slightly lesser known works like “All My Colours (Zimbo)” are unlikely set highlights. With their laid back approach to performance a cynic could argue that the band are merely treading water, but anyone who's followed them throughout their career will know that they've always been like this, and that's why we love them. Playing a raft of classics with a distinctive gothic guitar shimmer and Ian McCulloch’s dry to the bone whit. The band battled against poor sound for most of their set but things got better towards the end and McCulloch looks cool as you like, or his smoke drenched silhouette does at least. They finish up with a killer trio of “Nothing Lasts Forever”, “The Killing Moon” and “The Cutter”. Job done. James are perhaps the epitome of unfashionable, but they certainly know how to animate an audience with their sheer catchiness and Tim Booth’s relentless positivity. And for a man of Booth’s age his dancing is frankly ridiculous (a kind of mixture between a speed addled warehouse raver, Ian Curtis and an LA yoga yogi) but it cant help but bring a smile to your face. Their energetic opening which included sing-along staples “Waltzing Along” and “Ring The Bells” has some respite in the form of an excellent stripped down rendition of “She's A Star”. But its safe to say that when a band announce a section of new songs, the first of which has Booth constrained by a grasped lyric sheet, the effect isn't so rousing. On the plus side, one of their five (I think) newbies had a rousing violin led finale which was quite rewarding and things picked up dramatically towards the end of the section as the band just about proved that they haven't lost their knack of writing anthemic pop fodder. If there was any doubt that the crowd weren't back onside by now they made sure of it by knocking out “Born Of Frustration” (probably the song that stands up the best after all those years, a true great pop gem), the crowd pleasing “Sit Down” and a finale of “Laid”.

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