Echo & the Bunnymen nostalgically sharp in NYC

Echo & the Bunnymen
Irving Plaza
New York, NY
05.13.11

By Patrick Prince

Music fans spend a lot of money hoping to see and hear their favorite iconic bands recapture a particular moment in history. The ticket is always fun, but often disappointing.

However, on a tour where their first two albums, “Crocodiles” and “Heaven Up Here” are played in their entirety, Echo & the Bunnymen sounded nearly as refreshing and exciting as they did in the beginning,

In the two hours of an electric “Crocodiles” and a beautifully moody “Heaven Up Here,” Echo debunked any skeptics. Irving Plaza is a venue that is known for good sound quality and the band took advantage of it. Guitars were sharp and loud, bass driving, vocals clear and, in the end, the songs were truthful.

Ian McCulloch is living proof that a vocalist can chain smoke and sing — almost simultaneously — and still be wonderfully effective. As uniquely rebellious McCulloch’s vocals were during “Crocodiles,” a Morrison persona seemed to appear in “Heaven Up Here.” But it’s really McCulloch being himself — pensive, poetic, poignant … more an artist than a pop star.

In between songs, McCulloch was in relatively good spirits, ranging from hilariously obvious (“this next song is faster”) to chatty (he wasn’t too fond of TimeOut New York listing the band as a “British gloom-pop troupe”); and at times the audience wondered what he was going on about (one women requested an interpreter).

McCulloch even joked that he felt Echo & the Bunnymen’s first album was better than The Beatles’ first album (or was he joking?). Of course it’s not. But Echo & the Bunnymen’s early material is brilliant nonetheless. And still played brilliantly live.

McCulloch and crew did not go through the motions like many thirty-year old bands. The band still seems to believe in what they play. In the end Ian McCulloch seemed to answer his own question in “Rescue”: Is this the blues I’m singing? Yes, it is. And it’s authentic.

This may be end up being one of the best shows of the year. If you get a chance, don’t miss it (see remaining dates below).

Note: The talented Kelley Stoltz opened; a perfect choice, considering Stoltz released a tribute to Echo with 2001’s “Crockodials,” a track by track cover version of the original “Crocodiles” album.

More dates:

16th May Toronto – Phoenix Theatre
17th May Chicago – Vic Theatre
19th May San Francisco – Warfield Theatre
20th May Las Vegas – Red Rock Casino
21st May L.A. – Club Nokia Theatre
22nd May Anaheim – House Of Blues

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