Echo and the Bunnymen at O2 Academy, Bournemouth on 4 February 2022

The Bunnymen were a key part of my growing up (a bit) in the early 80s in Birmingham, initially as a student. Big second hand coats and messy fringes. Our fashion houses and gentlemen’s tailors were the musty second hand clothes shops of Digbeth, with their excellent line in dead men’s jackets and big coats. Clothes of character and history for a couple of quid. I am delighted to see Ian McCullough sporting a super big coat this evening, although I doubt it’s a dead man’s one and the messy fringe seems relatively cropped and tidy this evening.

Previous Bunnies encounters

My old ticket stash and list of early gigs reveals the first Bunnymen encounters as Hammersmith Odeon May 1981 and two Birmingham Odeon gigs in 1983 and 1985.

Memories are dark and shadowy, as they would be for a Bunnymen gig and no cameras or phones to assist. I do remember a Brixton Academy gig more clearly – grand venue,  with the seats out and a sloping floor to help the view.  I was living in Twyford near Reading at the time so another period of London accessibility, although expensive dodgy late night cab rides home were an occasional necessity when missing the last train home.

With Shepherd’s Bush Empire (2001), here at Bournemouth O2 supporting James (2013), Oxford O2 (2014) and a V97 Leeds appearance that’s a fair few I can rustle up.

There have also been a couple of more unusual Ian McCulloch solo gigs. In October 1989, at Leicester De Montfort Hall, a ‘crowd’ of less than 100 of ud watched him on his Candleland tour. It was sparse enough to be embarrassing in that sizeable venue. My other solo experience was Winchester Discovery Centre (YouTube clip) in April 2017 which was an up-close and personal, seated, acoustic affair. Towards the end a bloke ran on to the stage area and locked McCulloch in an embrace and wouldn’t let go. They were seperated and the stage invader weirdo ejected, before a few encores.

Tonight in Bournemouth

We are in Chaplin’s nice and early – me, wife Sally, gig buddies Dave and Ann and Steve (SGo) who we all know from Glastonbury Festival. There is some sort of DJ on before the Bunnymen, otherwise known as ‘no support’ in my book, so no rush. Good job as it turned out: I’d forgotten my reading glasses or the usual pre-gig prep of screen shotting the tickets from what turn into inpenetrable apps when in a hurry to get in with intermittent connectivity. Ann to the rescue 👍. One day I will really mess up this e-ticket stuff…I guess with some pleading at the box office and some proof of ID you’d be OK : I’m yet to test that theory.

It’s a bit of a relief that the gig is on at all. After the usual Covid induced postponements, the band had to leave the stage early a few nights ago in Leeds, due to front man McCulloch’s back problems. A planned rest day and he is all set to return this evening.

After getting in and surveying the inviting merch stand we pop upstairs to sit on a comfy sofa for a bit. The second floor ‘Gods’ seats are closed this evening.

(More details on the venue, a more regular haunt, can be found here in my O2 Academy Bournemouth venue blog.)

Back downstairs – midway back and to the left – the band are on and McCulloch appears from the gloom and dry ice in a huge coat. I’m wondering if it’s covering a back support. It’s plenty big enough….come to think of it mine was too big back in the early 80s.

The band is McCulloch on vocals – he doesn’t pick up a guitar tonight – with Will Sergeant as the only original band member on guitar. He’s been forever present – even McCulloch left the Bunnymen for a bit. The rest of the band are touring musicians that have changed over recent years.

The focus is all on McCulloch. We occasionally lose him to clouds of dry ice but he’s up front and central to it all. He’s quite cheerful this evening, bearing his back problem in mind, but it’s hard to hear what he’s saying between songs and he knows it.

Bunnymen in Bournemouth

The whole set has a welcome leaning towards the old stuff and three of the first five songs are from debut album Crocodiles: Going Up; All That Jazz and Re-es-cue 🎶

The title track of the Flowers album made a surprise early entry – I didn’t know this 2001 album at all until a few months back (Thanks Steve G). It’s a cracker. I did buy their first five albums and then later Evergreen and What Are You Going to do With Your Life. Clearly a longterm attachment…but I’ve clearly dropped the ball a few times along the way.

Ian McCulloch with big coat –  balcony view

Having forgotten my trusty pocket zoom (again 🙄) I only have my unremarkable phone camera to illustrate the evening. I go for a wander upstairs. The phone snappers are up here – surprisingly few phones in the way and being waved downstairs – mature audience I guess. Upstairs you can wander freely and peer over the one deep crowd at the rail, clinging on harder like Limpets as I walk passed in case I dive in to their space – I’d do the same.

Will Sergeant and Ian McCulloch in the haze

Heaven Up Here (1981) tracks Over the Wall and Zimbo are mid-set treasures that are followed by the first – Seven Seas – from what many would say was the Bunnies best album Ocean Rain. The set is something of a masterpiece with its selection across the albums – no more than three tracks from any one album. I wouldn’t have bet on Bedbugs and Ballyhoo coming out. There’s a decent new song: Brussels is Haunted and the other surprise to me is is just how sing-a-long-a-popular Nothing Lasts Forever is. A later album classic. I thought it was just me.

Great sound. An absorbed audience. This helps the enjoyment hugely. The main set ends with The Cutter , a student anthem for me. There are two encores, the first being Lips Like Sugar (my phone clip on YouTube) which I captured on another upstairs wander.

Another half hour of classics could easily be added but hey, less is more….. nothing lasts forever eh. It’s time to end with what McCulloch has often referred to as the greatest song ever written (he’s a modest lad)…..The Killing Moon. (Official video on YouTube)

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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