Mark E. Smith takes on Belfast
This wonderful, summery weather we've been enjoying all week doesn't really go with The Fall, nominally a group but more accurately the project of the Angry Older Man (formerly Angry Young Man and Angry Man) Mark E Smith. It should probably be bitterly cold, grey and overcast. No matter.
The band arrives first and begins to play before Smith deigns to grace us with his presence wearing a leather jacket. On one of the warmest days of the year. There before us is the man who never compromised, never sold out. His harsh regime of ï¿½my way or the highway' has led to a revolving door of line-ups down the years, but he is still at the core of it, shaping to his own twisted vision.
With such a long career he can pick and choose the set from up and down the decades, dropping in new stuff like '50 Year Old Man.' Musically, the work is rooted in punk but the changing members bring their own flavours and interpretations (aided by his probably daily alterations of how it should sound). They are tight though, very tight. The rhythm section pounds away continuously, the guitar drops almost evil little licks about like bombs and the keyboards add more than a bit of colour. Of course this isn't enough, it's all added to by the chaotic performance of the unlikely front-man, constantly switching microphones, pairing them up with one another, before deciding he's a better keys player, and then altering the amps until they satisfy his whim. Yet for all this, there's something so compelling about the man - it's like a loose tooth, you can't ignore it.
And yet the adulation seems to not please him, as Smith moves around wearing his distaste like a suit. It's as though this is his job, and he hates it, but won't quit, instead he wants the pay-off for being fired - he's the slacker at work who's been there for years. Unfortunately he's also the boss so that P45 will never arrive.
During the encore, Smith takes this an opportunity to have a go at his whippersnapper cross-Pennine enemies, with various remarks about The Kaiser Chiefs that won't make him welcome in Yorkshire - not that he cares. As the pounding blues-rock-dance rhythms (a la Death In Vegas) keep coming from the band, he looks about him decides that's enough and walks off stage, pausing only to gather up that jacket.