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  • Writer's pictureDanny C

Echo & The Bunnymen, Barrowlands Glasgow 20-03-24 and City Hall Newcastle 23-03-24

There’s been loads of studies on the benefits of listening to music, especially live music. Not just enjoying the moment but amongst other things it’s also said to improve brain function, have a positive impact on physical wellbeing, contributes to a longer-term better state of mind and can give you more motivation and generally perform better. It’s even been said that going to gigs increases your life span. The first part is why, of all the live bands I go to see, Echo and The Bunnymen are the band I’ve seen more than any other and the second part means I’ll live into my hundreds and can only hope McCulloch, Sargent & co will do the same so I can keep that cycle of positivity going. I bloody love this group.

Having seen Echo and The Bunnymen before, more times than I can count it was obvious for gig buddy Slash Vaseline and me to do more than one show this tour (I’m also seeing them twice in August too). We’ve seen them a few times in Glasgow (beating -15c weather to get through for one show), Liverpool, London, Manchester, Birmingham and in nearly every good size venue in Edinburgh, plus a personal highlight of meeting Will at his autobiography book reading last year. Legend! Their songs from their early classics to recent material (including the teaser of a new song this week) are like hymns and anthems to us. They’ve been with us through thick and thin and while nothing ever lasts forever The Bunnymen’s class endures. It’s more than a gig, it’s spiritual, it’s uplifting and despite Mac’s incoherent mumbling in-between songs chat, it’s pure joy. Did I say I bloody love this band?

We went to the Barras show with quite a mix of folk; some Edinburgh punk pals, Wishy family and Gigeratti Grant all in tow, meeting for a few pre-gig beers in and around some of the nearby bars, McChuills being a new favourite for me, and a well-planned pitstop at 226 Gallowgate right next to the venue, as the queue to get in at 10 minutes from stage time was round the block. It just got down to a few folk queuing by the time we joined it and even then, we didn’t miss anything as the band were on about 15 minutes later than advertised, so we were able to get in comfortably and find a decent spot to wait for the band to come on. Over the piece there were plenty crowd-pleasing classics as well as a lot of lesser-heard tunes throughout the set – I overheard a one guy behind me tell his pals how happy he was they’d played All My Colours just before Slash Vaseline said something similar.

As I said, Mac’s usual mumbling between songs which he’s well known for, and I’m sure he plays it up for the Glasgow crowd to be even less understandable than other cities (it seems to wind them up more). Add that to what seemed like a short first set (30-35 minutes?) and them head off stage after Bring On the Dancin’ Horses (my personal all-time favourite),  a lot of the crowd seemed less than pleased. For the record, they played 18 songs including two ten-minute(ish) encores in Lips Like Sugar and Ocean Rain, which has to be value for money in anyone’s book. I added to one fan’s ire as I managed to knock a pint out of his hand behind me as he followed the path I was weaving through the packed crowd at the break (I couldn’t do that again if I tried). He did say it was ok as he had two for himself anyway, but it’s the Barras and you never know who you could end up talking to so I bought him a pint to make up for spilling the other and we got chatting a bit to find out that he’d seen my Gig-Antics socials (woohoo!) and The Bunnymen was his first gig (of over a thousand) in 1984 here’ at the Barras (Nice one Robert, hope your reading this!). Overall I thought it was a good gig – not the best I’ve seen of them, but Newcastle was one of the best.

SV and me arrived in Newcastle early as we’d planned to meet with a couple of local pals we’ve not seen for a few years for a catch up before the gig – The Pirates. We first met them in Whitby at a Goth Weekender as we were working our way along ‘the Christmas drinks shelf’ of a bar (sherry, advocaat, brandy), as you do, and we’ve been great mates ever since. We call them The Pirates because, well, they’re part-time pirates and part of a social group of like-minded individuals, although one has veered more into a Sea Shanty group and the other writes gothic horror. What a boring pair eh!

Sadly, they had to cancel last minute and while we were left to our own devices, we did get chatting with a few locals instead, with mixed results. The chat was good and we were told about the Lancaster Music Festival (30 venues, 200 acts, 300 shows) which we didn’t know about but will look into this in the future. What wasn’t so good was their pre-gig pub recommendations; we ended up in a couple of places that were not quite what we were expecting – think the spaceport cantina in Star Wars crossed with an Armageddon-style New Years Party (although the Baby Guinness’s were only £2 each) and another we wrongly expected to be a music bar but was again a throwback to a bar that time forgot, packed, chaotic and wild times everywhere we looked. And all that before 6 o'clock!

We got back on track when we met up with a gigging pal from Sunderland who steered us right for a bar near the venue, Newcastle’s wonderful City Hall. A great venue that reminded me when we got there of Brixton Academy, Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and other old re-purposed theatre hall/ music venues. It must’ve been close to sold out and at over 2000 capacity it was rocking. Maybe it was the Newcastle factor, maybe it was because it was a Saturday night, but the crowd were a lot louder and more up for this in anticipation for the band coming on stage. When they did come on (similarly 15 minutes later than advertised), the roof nearly came off with the roar for the band and it didn’t let up all night. The set was similar, some songs moved around the sets, and I don’t remember hearing the new song that was played in Glasgow. The mumbling was almost understandable at points (I caught something about David Bowie’s and Mac’s keks!?) and there was a more relaxed feel to their playing this time round.

Will Sargent’s playing was immaculate, and Mac is Mac – iconic, laid-back and completely unique in his style, approach and sound. There’s no-one better. And not forgetting the rest of the band (Stephen Brannan, Simon Finley, Pete Reilly if my sources are right) – often overlooked at the side of two absolute legends, but their part in the group’s success has to be applauded too. Fantastic musicians and they make it all look effortless.

Our night ended in a Newcastle rock bar, Trillians, but after hanging around for a while, waiting to see if the stage there was going to be filled with more live music (it didn’t, we’d missed the band already!) we decided to call it a night on our mini tour of Bunnymen shows for the time being. Not for too long for me though as I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets for both their outdoor Glasgow shows in August.

It’s only a few months but I’ll have to wait a while for them to Bring On The Dancin’ Horses again (and again)! Maybe you missed it, but I bloody love this band,

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