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  • Jack Starr

Echo & the Bunnymen @ City Hall – Iconic New Wave Rock Group Celebrate 45 Years with Greatest Hits Show

Seeing them perform today, it is hard to believe that Echo & the Bunnymen have existed as long as they have. Formed in Liverpool in 1978, they are a band that have been around for as long as we can all remember, but still sound as timeless as ever. There is something about the blend of post-punk rock and dreamy psychedelia that reaches out across generations.

That was as visible as ever at Sheffield City Hall, where they drew an incredibly diverse crowd – young and old, goths, rockers, hippies – Echo brings them all together.

The opening act was Erica Nockalls, a local musician hailing from Rotherham – ‘this is my hometown gig’, she proclaimed, shouting out to her parents in the audience. Nockalls is a violinist and vocalist in her self-titled band, who play an artsy take on electronic rock. This act certainly caught attention as a unique take on the use of violin, and are definitely worth checking out as an underrated South Yorkshire artist.

Dubbed the Songs to Learn and Sing tour, after their iconic 1985 compilation album, this tour was a showcase of everything the band had to offer, from the early punkish hits to the seminal mid-‘80s anthems and the later alt-rock material, all set to a spectacular show of bright neon lights and dry ice.

Frontman and singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant are what remains of the original line-up – bassist Les Pattinson left for personal reasons in 1998, and original drummer Pete de Freitas was tragically killed in a 1989 motorbike accident, aged 27. Touring musicians joining the core duo are bassist Stephen Brannan, guitarist Pete Reilly, drummer Simon Finley and keyboardist Mike Smith – all of whom do exceptionally well in bringing a legendary act back to life.

McCulloch is, of course, the standout star – he eagerly chats about the music between songs in his thick Liverpudlian drawl, engaging with the audience, always bigging himself up, and even having his best go at a Yorkshire accent (the attempt was commendable, if a little off-the-mark). At one point, McCulloch even broke up a fight in the front row of the audience, having the culprits ejected in a vulgar outburst, for which he apologised for his ‘French’. For a legendary rock frontman, McCulloch is certainly an amusing character. The set was split in two, with an intermission, in which he claimed he was ‘going for a brew’ – this was a much-welcomed breather for fans of a certain age in the crowd.

It is perfectly understandable that the band don’t quite have the energy they had in 1981, but the fact they are still up there and getting the songs out is admirable in of itself. With the history of outstanding tracks Echo & the Bunnymen can boast, it is hard to go wrong.

‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’ was an excellent midpoint highlight, though many of the big hits were saved for the end. There was an audible cheer of excitement as they started ‘The Killing Moon’, complete with deep blue lighting and a projected image of a moon with a bunny-man silhouette against it. ‘There’s only one way to follow-up a great song, and that’s with another great song,’ McCulloch said afterwards, before they followed into ‘The Cutter’, another timeless track. The encore song was ‘Lips Like Sugar’, another track known and loved by every fan in the crowd. These songs are simply untouchable – they will never not be great to see live.


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