Peter Ormerod reviews Echo and the Bunnymen at Warwick Arts Centre
He's a tease, that Ian McCulloch. He'd talked up the possibility of playing some quite radically rearranged versions of Bunnymen classics. H'd claimed to care little for the sensitivities and preciousness of fans. And yet on Sunday night he fronted a band who tore through their catalogue in faithful yet fresh style - much to the evident delight of the crowd.
This was the sound and look of a band fully embracing their post-punk roots. Will Sergeant's guitar sliced and darted through the auditorium with pinpoint precision. There was a skittish energy, with drums crisp, precise and pounding, and McCulloch's vocals alive with edge and attack. What it lacked in depth and lushness it made up for in energy and bite.
The tour is ostensibly in support of their new album, The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, which consists mostly of rerecorded versions of their best-known songs, some with rather mellow, if still magical, moods. But this didn't feel like a cosy greatest-hits show. Three of the first five songs came from their 1980 debut album, Crocodiles, and sounded as urgent and searing as ever. The middle part of the set was more expansive,with highlights including a towering Over the Wall and slinky jams and medleys honouring the band's idols: Roadhouse Blues, The Jean Genie, Walk On The Wild Side and Don't Let Me Down all made cameo appearances. The audience got to their feet for Seven Seas stayed there while being treated to a string of favourites: Rust, Bring On the Dancing Horses and an exhilarating The Cutter. The sole encore was The Killing Moon, a song whose sense of enigma seems only to deepen with time.
Don't for one second be fooled into thinking the Bunnymen have gone soft. On this evidence, they still mean business. And 40 years into their career, there's a sense of plenty more still to come.
* Echo and the Bunnymen played:
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
All That Jazz
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over The Wall
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues / The Jean Genie
Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk On The Wild Side / Don't Let Me Down
Bring On the Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon
* The show took place on Sunday October 21. Visit www.bunnymen.com/tour-dates for details of future tour dates.