Music review: Echo and The Bunnymen, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

It may be over four decades since Echo and the Bunnymen released their debut album, but frontman Ian McCulloch still sings as if he’s 21, writes David Pollock

Echo and the Bunnymen, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****

There was a moment early in this show, during Rescue, where Ian McCulloch sang of losing his way and losing his touch, which he wonders if he ever really had anyway. These words perfectly framed what came after, because the character of the beautiful loser resonates through McCulloch’s art – even when its results are anything but failed.

It's almost inconceivable that Rescue and the album from which it emerged, Echo and the Bunnymen’s debut Crocodiles, is 43 years old. This tour celebrates a later milestone in the band’s first, all-conquering iteration, their 1984 fourth album Ocean Rain, and 15 years since that record was first toured with an orchestra in 2008. Before the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra stepped into the organ gallery here, though, the first half of the performance was straight rock ‘n’ roll.

Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen PIC: Jim Dyson/Getty ImagesIan McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen PIC: Jim Dyson/Getty Images
Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen PIC: Jim Dyson/Getty Images
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This took in deeper cuts like Bedbugs & Ballyhoo and All My Colours (Zimbo), the groove in their rhythm inspiring better-than-average indie dancing in the audience, and classics like Never Stop and Bring On the Dancing Horses. Nothing Lasts Forever segued into a loose bounce through Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed, an influence on McCulloch like no other.

The projected chandelier for Ocean Rain suggested the classy bit of the show had arrived, but the energy stayed much the same. The orchestra’s rushing strings filling what little space was left around Will Sergeant’s gorgeous, epic guitar amid the jerky rhythm of Thorn of Crowns, the sheer pop rush of Seven Seas and My Kingdom’s anthemic groove.

The album’s key track, Killing Moon, was received in rapture, alongside two separate encores of Lips Like Sugar and The Cutter. Throughout, McCulloch spoke and acted like a guy who had wandered off the street and been placed in front of the mic, and sang as though he’s still 21. It was all very special.

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