Electric Picnic 09 - Echo and the Bunnymen
From being titans of cool in the eighties, to managing to pull off one of the few credible comebacks after a decade of absence, Echo and the Bunnymen have always managed to deliver the goods, crafting new material that stands up alongside a t back catalogue jam packed with stone cold classics.
So what happened to them at Electric Picnic, then? Shuffling onto the stage like a bunch of surly teenagers, the Bunnymen kicked of with a pretty storming version of 'Rescue' which blew away the cobwebs and had your correspondent screeching like a harpy. Then they banged straight into 'Villier's Terrace', and the place went wild.
So far, so good. The cracks become evident when 'Villier's Terrace' mutates into a run-through of 'Roadhouse Blues' by the Doors. And from here on in, it becomes the "Ian McCullough sing-a-long karaoke challenge". Few are spared in the onslaught to come, with the band repetitively jamming on in auto-pilot, whilst McCullough butchers the classics. Barely acknowledging the crowd, McCullough puts on a less that transcendental performance, gazing into the middle distance, crooning half-hearted 'reinventions' of the classics, and occasionally uttering instructions to the sound desk. The Bunnymen have long had a tradition of incorporating other people's material into their own songs, turning it on it's head and putting it in a new context, but this is not what took place here. 'Legendary', it is not.
Another problem is that Will Sargent is notably absent from the proceedings. Despite having a reputations as one of THE guitar heroes of the post-punk era, Sargent is barely present in the mix, occasionally cutting through the sound with a crystal clear guitar line which reminds us why we're here. But it's not enough to rescue the sinking ship.
Equipment problems actually enhance the set, with a Sargent's out of tune twelve string guitar giving 'The Killing Moon' an unexpectedly comedic edge, and a bass guitar malfunction prompting McCullough to temporarily rouse from his torpor, to crack a few gags.
By the end, ATL is actually glad they've finished, such is the complete failure of their set. The Bunnymen have been a touchstone for a whole generation of bands seeking to inject mystery and romanticism into their music, but now they've completely been left behind, looking like a tired old pub band. Finally, the imitators have beaten the masters, as the Bunnymen struggle to reclaim any of the dynamics or tensions that once made their music so thrilling.
"Nothing ever lasts forever," croons McCullough. He's right, it would appear, as my love for Echo and the Bunnymen gets lain to rest.
Describe in a tweet: Echo and the Boringmen.
Good Vibrations: The material from 1983's "Porcupine" sounds sparkling, giving a tantalising glimpse of what could have been.
Life's a Beach: McCullough murdering 'Walk on the Wild Side'. One wag standing nearby was overheard to opine, "If I'd wanted to hear someone ruin this song, I'd go and see Lou Reed."
EP Rating: 4/10