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Manchester International Festival

You are in: Manchester > Entertainment > Manchester International Festival > The Fall

Mark E Smith of The Fall (photo by Joel Fildes)

Unique: Mark E Smith (pic: Joel Fildes)

The Fall

A masterclass in casual mayhem, is the only way to sum up The Fall and Mark E Smith at the Manchester International Festival.

Always different, never predictable, the Fall’s iconic leader fronted a frantic yet brilliant set at the Ritz which excelled despite his best efforts to disrupt the show.

Looking like a drunk who stumbles in from the wings to find himself on stage, Smith proceeded to wreak havoc. This wasn’t choreographed anarchy: this was Smith’s own brand of random chaos.

Mark E Smith (photo by Joel Fildes)

Original: Mark E Smith

A mic stand crosses his path – push it over. A roadie picks it up. Over it goes again. And another. This mic works fine. Use two mics. Chuck one away, grab another. Turn the amps up. Then down. Then up again. Smash a cymbal. Muscle Elena off the keyboards, and hit the keys.

To someone who’s never seen The Fall live before, it was all hugely entertaining. I’m not just indulging Smith and his eccentricity. This was actually one of the most musically energetic gigs I’ve ever witnessed.

The current Fall line-up is a really tight band. Drummer McCord and bass player Dave Spurr were in great form, driving often complex rhythms under some accomplished guitar work and keyboards, and it all came together for a night of belligerent brilliance.

As someone in the crowd muttered wrily: the band are that good, he’ll probably sack them before the year’s out.


The evening began somewhat calmer in the form of readings of new writing inspired by Fall song titles, presented in a new book called Perverted by Language.

"Like a drunk who’d stumbled in through the stage door and found himself on stage, Smith proceeded to wreak his own brand of chaos."

Richard Turner, reviewer

To be honest, it was a contrived and pointless effort to justify The Fall's inclusion in this festival of 'new work' - which didn’t work. I just felt sorry for the three brave authors who tried in vain to read to a largely disinterested crowd. Organisers: The Fall don’t need justification. ‘Original’ is Mark E Smith’s middle name. (If you can’t spell.)

Smith’s promoter Alan Wise got it right when he told the audience: “Mark doesn’t endorse this book. He does his thing, the writers do theirs. But they don’t meet.” (Apparently, he did it back the idea early on, then changed his mind. Of course.)

It’s typical of Smith’s attitude to what’s expected. A more obvious ‘rebel’ might have lit up on stage to spite the 1 July smoking ban. Or made some caustic reference on the Concert for Diana. You’d expect that. So he didn’t. Too obvious, maybe.


To single out individual tracks - and beyond Sparta FC and Reformation, I couldn’t - is probably to miss the point. In the end, it’s the unmistakable hunched figure of Mark E Smith, still snarling with gentile menace, who catches the eyes and ears.

This was no premiere, but it was a performance of true originality. And if that doesn’t fit the Festival's 'new and original' bill, I don’t know what does.

last updated: 04/07/07

You are in: Manchester > Entertainment > Manchester International Festival > The Fall

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