Engine Rooms, Southampton

Echo & The Bunnymen

As Winter is upon us the better gigs are coming thick and fast. Tonight Southampton’s Engine Rooms play host to one of Post/Punk Indie’s finer bands, Echo and The Bunnymen. Opening for them tonight are Psychadelic quartet The Probes, also from Liverpool. Their ramshackle and casual stage entrance gives the impression they had literally just arrived at the venue. Normally I would expect a soundcheck to be conducted pre-gig, but not tonight. After an age of fiddling about taking cue from the soundman they finally start.

Their Psychadelic entrance gives way to Shoegaze very early on amid the sea of noise/wall of sound they are producing. The distinctly off-key vocals jockey for attention above the chiming guitars, while the heavy bass is matched by the equally loud drums. It’s more experimental than specific and the swirling guitars are the only highlight of a band (to me) still trying to find their feet. One song melds into another and one never knows when each song is gonna end. Maybe that’s the point but it’s completely lost on me. No one track stands out for me and their whole ramshackle approach at the start kinda set the tone for their output. They clearly don’t lack talent, I just feel it’s a work in progress. However, the audience reaction suggests either I’m in the minority or this Southampton crowd are too polite!

The Probes
The Probes 1234

And so to the headliners. No strangers to the South Coast the Bunnymen; now a 6-piece, proceed to deliver a best-of set that will please all. Decked almost entirely in black and a flurry of smoke, they open with “Going Up”. Ian says ‘this is a wonderful old air raid shelter to play in’ with a wry snmile, and it’s great to be back in Southampton. Keeping the crowd happy they entertain us with “Crocodiles” and a brilliant “Do It Clean”. McCulloch’s ability to ad-lib almost throughout keeps things fresh and interesting, though band/crowd banter is in short supply. Ian simply says “thanks” after most songs, staying mainly statuesque throughout. Looking around me, this largely middle-aged crowd will have been around from their first incarnation and have stayed loyal throughout. “Seven Seas” sounds phenominal tonight as the wall of sound brushes over us. I wont pretend I know every song on offer but the “hits” are received equally as well as the other songs.

With a setlist to die for this band prove they still cut it, even if Ian is more conservative with his voice. His raspy tones have replaced some of the higher notes, but that voice is no less effective live. The singalongs continue throughout the show, notably on “Rescue”. The pounding drum intro to “All My Colours” gives way to Ian’s haunting tones and sets us up for the wonderful “Over The Wall”. He raises the tempo and volume in the chorus and one cant help but join in on the chorus. In a room like this that booming vocal really carries. “Never Stop” gives Jez (keys) a chance to shine, quietly nestled at the back of the stage. In fact the whole band are pretty much statuesque, save for Gordy (2nd guitar) who occasinally moves around the stage.

Before playing their final 3 songs “Mac” banters with this crowd about how Liverpool FC steal all Southampton’s best players-and is promptly booed!! But it’s good natured and they get on with the set. An emphatic version of “Villiers Terrace” sees the first mash-up of the night with “Roadhouse Blues” (Doors), and Mac really lets loose with his vocal. For the first time tonight it seems the shackles are off and he totally relaxes with an encouraging audience. “Bring On The Dancing Horses” follows and once again Mac twists his vocal somewhat, setting us up nicely for staple live favourite “The Killing Moon”. And with that they depart to huge applause.

Echo And The Bunnymen
Echo And The Bunnymen 1234

Long, loud shouts for an encore bring them back and they don’t disappoint with another classic mash-up. “Nothing Lasts Forever” is delivered with unerring honesty before Mac cleverly dips into “Walk On The Wild Side” with effortless ease. If this crowd weren’t already impressed they then incorporate “In The Midnight Hour” into the mix and they are lapping it up now. “Lips Like Sugar” ends the show, but not without another mash-up! Taking in the Stones (Emotional Rescue) and Bowie (Will You Rock & Roll With Me); they subtly end with a “Lips Like Sugar” (reprise), but at 10.50pm I’m still hoping they come back and play “Back Of Love” which would’ve been the perfect ending. They don’t, and that folks is that.

On the strength of this show (and tour alone) The Bunnymen will be around for a while yet. These songs are timeless and a near sell out crowd would suggest they are not ready to hang their guitars up just yet. Mac still has a great voice and an equally great band behind him. Long may this continue for those of us willing to come out on a cold November night for a 90 minute trip down memory lane. Echo and The Bunnymen-timeless!!

Set List
Going Up
Do It Clean
All That Jazz
Seven Seas
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
My Kingdom
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over the Wall
Never Stop
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues
Bring On the Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon

Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk on the Wild Side / In the Midnight Hour
Lips Like Sugar/ Emotional Rescue / Will You Rock & Roll with Me / Lips like Sugar (Reprise)


Written By Ross A. Ferrone
Pictures & Research by Dave Chinery (Chinners)

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