By John Curley
Liverpudlian legends Echo & The Bunnymen brought their North American tour in support of their new album The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon to New York City’s Town Hall on Wednesday, November 21st on what was a freezing night in the Northeastern United States. The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon includes reimagined versions of classic songs from Echo & The Bunnymen’s substantial catalog as well as two new songs. Regarding the new versions of the classic tracks on the album, lead vocalist Ian McCulloch said, “I’m not doing this for anyone else. I’m doing it as it’s important to me to make the songs better. I have to do it.”
The night of music at Town Hall began with a 40-minute solo acoustic set by Johnathan Jackson, the lead vocalist for the band ENATION. Jackson’s set was quite enjoyable, and he received a great response from the sold-out crowd.
The crowd erupted when McCulloch, fellow founding member of the band, guitarist Will Sergeant, and their excellent four-piece backing band took the stage. (The string section that performed with the band during their European shows earlier this year is not with the band on this North American tour.) Sergeant made his presence known immediately with his fantastic guitar work on the opening song “Going Up.” They tore right into a phenomenal version of “Bedbugs And Ballyhoo” that had the audience cheering and singing along. A great band effort on “Rescue” received a big hand from the crowd. And a crowd-pleasing version of “Never Stop,” which featured outstanding work by Sergeant and a great vocal by McCulloch, had many in the crowd up on their feet and dancing.
Machine-gun-like drumming punctuated a terrific version of “All That Jazz.” And Sergeant’s excellent guitar work highlighted a great take on “All My Colours (Zimbo)” that received a big hand from the audience.
There were a number of fans from the UK at the show. They made their presence known when McCulloch was talking to the crowd and joked that nobody in the audience understood his Liverpudlian accent. Many in the UK contingent shouted things like “We hear you, Macca!” much to McCulloch’s amusement.
The band then went into an incredible version of “Over The Wall” that was one of the highlights of the show. The performances by Sergeant, McCulloch, and the band on the song were stellar, and the crowd erupted at the end. The terrific performance of “The Somnambulist” received a nice reaction from the audience. An extended version of “Villiers Terrace” that included bits of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” and David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” was another highlight of the show, and it received a massive reaction from the crowd.
Town Hall is a seated venue. McCulloch, inspired by the roar that greeted the performance of “Villiers Terrace,” implored the crowd to get on their feet. Many did and remained standing for the remainder of the show. The band then went into another extended song, a version of “Nothing Lasts Forever” that included parts of “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Coney Island Baby” by Lou Reed and The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” It was really outstanding. Many in the crowd sang along with “Walk On The Wild Side.” A huge ovation took place at the end of the song.
A great band effort on “Seven Seas” got a big hand as did an excellent take on the slower song “Rust.” The crowd loved the performance of “Bring On The Dancing Horses,” and many in the audience sang along in full voice with the chorus. The crowd roared when they heard the first notes of “The Killing Moon” and the enthusiasm remained throughout the performance of the song. Many in the crowd were singing along. A great version of “The Cutter” closed out the main set, and it had many audience members singing along.
After a brief interval, the band returned to the stage. They began the encore with a rip-roaring, extended version of one of their signature songs, “Lips Like Sugar.” The crowd sang along with a full-throated roar. The band left the stage briefly and then returned for the last song of the night, “Ocean Rain,” which served as a perfect end to the show. It started slow and then built in intensity. McCulloch’s vocal was stellar, and Sergeant provided some really fantastic guitar work. The 90-minute performance by the band had been quite a crowd pleaser as evidenced by the massive roar that took place as the band left the stage.
The tour hits Detroit tonight, Friday, November 23rd, and wraps up with two shows in Los Angeles on December 4th and 5th. Full tour dates can be found at http://www.bunnymen.com/tour-dates/.
The setlist was as follows:
Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
All That Jazz
All My Colours (Zimbo)
Over The Wall
Villiers Terrace (included bits of The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues and David Bowie’s The Jean Genie)
Nothing Lasts Forever (included bits of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side and Coney Island Baby and The Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down)
Bring On The Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon
Lips Like Sugar
Watch the unboxing of The Beatles 50th Anniversary editions of the ‘White Album’ (above).