Concert Review: Echo & the Bunnymen, the Stills, Metro, Chicago, October 29
Consider the Who and Echo & the Bunnymen. Both lost their drummers
to tragic, early deaths. Both continue to tour despite being down to
just their original singers and lead guitarists and apparently past
their creative prime. As their frontmen find diminishing interest in
their solo careers, soldiering on with the band could be interpreted as
desperate cash-in on nostalgia. The difference is that Echo & the
Bunnymen still make their songs sound vital. Any doubts I had as to
whether Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant and the four new guys (bass,
rhythm guitar, drums and keyboards) are still worth seeing were
immediately replaced by the shivers up my spine.
The newer songs lack the jagged edges that make their '80s output
so much more intriguing, but they were mainly trotting out the old hits
and the old obscurities. The tour is in celebration of the band's 25th
reunion; in December, Rhino will be reissuing remastered versions of
their first five albums. The ones with the memorable, moving songs. The
ones before Pete de Freitas died and McCulloch embarked on a solo
career. The good ones.
I've given up on their playing anything from the underrated
Electrafixion, Sergeant and McCulloch's precursor to the Bunnymen
reunion, and they passed on the driving "Do It Clean." But what they
did include was inspired. "Crocodiles," "Rescue, "Lips Like Sugar,"
"The Killing Mind." One encore included a localized cover of
"Walk on the Wild Side," rhyming "Chicago" and "Metro." They closed
with "Ocean Rain." McCulloch started with a nearly-whispered delivery,
Sergeant eventually came in with a searing guitar line. By the time
McCulloch finally went for the high notes at the song's close it was
One of the great mysteries in life, one which I have given up on every
figuring out, is what the hell Ian McCulloch is saying between songs.
I've been left befuddled at numerous venues with otherwise clear sound
systems, so the problem has to be a semi-indecipherable Liverpudlian
accent combined with a tendency to mumble except when singing.
As for opening act the Stills, they've been compared to the Chameleons
and Echo & the Bunnymen, but I just kept wondering when Gay Dad
changed their name.