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ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN: Saint Andrews Hall – Aug. 11, 2014

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – The torrential rains came and so did the floods. Driving over to Detroit I couldn’t help notice that the skies were completely black and there were plenty of traffic back ups along the way. There were accidents and swirling red and blue police lights and yet I was determined to get to Saint Andrews Hall to see Echo and the Bunnymen. I parked the car and made the long walk over to the venue getting completely sloshed in rain and walking through puddles of water. This was more than just a simple rain storm – it was more like, Ocean Rain.

I grabbed a brew and waited downstairs in the Shelter – the small music venue below the main auditorium. I could hear the opening act upstairs play on his acoustic through the sound system. It is there where I heard the terrible news about late comedian Robin Williams. Eventually I made my way upstairs to go stand in the main ballroom which was filling up with people and we were all soon elbow to elbow.

Ian McCulloch, the impressionable lead front man, walked onto the stage and the crowd went wild. There was a lot of blue and purple lights and all you could make out of the band members were shadows. That is typical. This was the closest I ever got to the band other than the time I caught them at Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT. At that show they brought the full prop list of fishing nets, twigs, dry ice fog machines, strobe lights. This was the first time I really saw the band completely stripped down. The stage setting was very odd – even for them – it consisted of a coffee table, a tiny lamp with lampshade and a couch. This was like a living room concert – literally.

The band launched into, “Meteorites” and it was very subtle but it drew you in close. Mac, (Ian’s nickname) has an very strong stage presence and always has. His trademark messy hair was piled up into a big rats nest and he wore a long coat and completed his mysterious look with a pair of sunglasses. I see a lot of rock stars doing this lately. How they can see or work around in all that fog like that is beyond me. The somber sound of, “Meteorites” is very slow and intriguing. Even while I am watching this band perform I can’t even believe that I am actually in front of them. The crowd was very enthusiastic.

Will Sergeant was there too but I couldn’t recognize him. It has been a while since I had seen them. This wasn’t the same band I saw in 1988 when they had all original members play in Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But make no mistake these guys know what they are doing. The second track they played was, “Rescue” off the first album and as soon as the opening notes shrilled through the speakers people were howling and cheering. These guys really make it look so easy. Ian brought the song to a slow pace at the words, “I broke my neck…..” and the guitar makes this guttural chopping sound and it wasn’t quite the right pitch. Ian sang that line three times until the guitar effect was perfect. Then he brings it back to full pace with the words, “Is this the blues I’m singing?”

YOU BET.

Echo and the Bunnymen METEORITES TOUR 2014, Saint Andrews Hall Detroit Michigan, Irving Plaza New York, The Metro in Chicago

I put on a ton of Echo and the Bunnymen living room concerts of my own. I got the 4 disc set with the full collection of B-sides and rare tracks and pretty much wore it out. I then ordered that same collection off of Itunes so I would have a backup copy. Seeing the EATB  perform in a living room kind of scenario made total sense to me because I have done it so many times.  Maybe that is what the band was kind of going for here? The setting was intimate. Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit is actually kind of small compared to others places I’d been like New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Irving Plaza.  The stage at the Royal Oak Music Theater is actually bigger than Saint Andrew’s Hall too. Then the other thought I have is that maybe the roadies just left the lamp and chair on the stage because they were too lazy to pull it down from the opening act.

I didn’t want to read the other reviews until I saw the show first hand. It would ruin the surprises and there are some good ones on this tour. EATB jumped into, “Never Stop” and the crowd was ready. I don’t believe I had ever seen the band do this live before. It sounded like awesome and the audience joined in on singing it. The audience participation was incredible. Remember that the band had this kind of support in their native England back in the 80’s where their fan base borders on fanatical. They had a Beatlemania type period early on in their history and rightly so. Bassist Wil Patterson and drummer Pete DeFreitas were relentless on the beat and there was a powerful sound. It was almost too good to last. Shortly after the 1988 US leg of the tour De Freitas would drive his motorcycle into a tree tragically cutting his career short.

“Bedbugs and Ballyhoo” was a surprise too. I hadn’t heard this one since the 1987-1988 tour which supported their self titled release, “Echo and the Bunnymen”. A lot of those tracks on that album had a certain energy about them that was never duplicated or topped since. They were a different band then and the songs that later followed on subsequent albums went off on another tangent. The songs were still imaginative and soul gripping but they didn’t hit the same emotional marks. “That’s The Way The Bee Bumbles…. That’s The Way The Thunder Rumbles….” Taunts Ian and the house erupted in applause. The sound was on the mark and delivered so perfectly I didn’t want this experience to end.

Echo and the Bunnymen have certainly gave us a lot over the years. They gave us the manic dancing and overall mania.  I remember Ian doing a full body shake dance where he would lose control over every muscle in his body amidst cheering women and flash bulbs. I have yet to see any of that on YouTube but welcome seeing that again because it was quite strange and wonderful. They also gave us a range of desperation and have taken us down dark roads of hopelessness and isolation and terror and then left us there. On the return album, “Evergreen” Ian McCulloch even assures us that, “Jesus Loves Us” and ends the song on a happy note on, “Don’t Let It Get You Down”. On the newest release, “Meteorites” there are shades of emotion on here that sort of fill in the missing gaps. This is a holistic release with songs like, “Holy Moses” and, “Constantinople”.

These songs work. They are not from left field but compliment the full collection of songs that we have come to, “Learn and Sing”. They even stand up in the same level of quality as the other songs. After a few listens you really cannot imagine life without them. This tour really blends in the old Echo and the new sounds bringing them together as one.

The band has never lost any of its original fire and that has never been more apparent than in, “All That Jazz” off the first album. Damn. This still sounds really good and they drive it in with sharp precision.  “See You When The Lights Go Low Joe…  Someday When The Sky Turns Black.” Bellows Ian and the jolting words are interrupted with a machine gun drumming. This could almost be a new song because it’s got all the hooks in it and all their signature sounds that made them. The house lets never go on full blast and the blue and purple lights criss cross as the band plays and never let us get  a clear view of what is happening on the stage. Ian never loses his focus on the mic and its about some kind of confrontation to some unseen enemy.

Echo and the Bunnymen usually give us nods to an earlier history in rock music. They are well versed in all of its lore. So ripping thru, “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground sort of comes naturally. Ian talks about the hustle and everyone in Detroit knows what that means. Just about everyone who rubbed shoulders with the mere mention of Detroit has some kind of hustle going down.  So you can imagine how enthusiastic the audience was once they heard this line.

The encores were amazing. The people could not get enough and together we all stomped on the old wooden floor making a loud ruckuss until the band returned. They came back on stage to do, “Ocean Rain” and the song couldn’t have been more appropriate. Outside unknown to us at the time was a major flood situation. Every major highway was shut down or flooded and cops were out directing cars to detours. “Your port and my heavy storms… harbors the blackest thoughts……” goes the song. This is a quiet moment and a reflective song about what one can only guess was a turbulent relationship. There is a hint here too about something victorious and maybe even walking away. I always thought the end leaned towards personal reinvention.

The applause was loud and unanimous. Thunderous. People screamed for the third encore but you know the rules. Usually when the music comes in over the loud speakers and the house lights start to go on the show is over. Now I loved this tour and I loved the closeness but I really hoped that the show would have been a bit longer. Who knows if any of us will ever get this close to the band again or how or where they will show up next?  After all they are quite mysterious.

THE SET LIST

·         Meteorites

·         Rescue

·         Do It Clean

·         Never Stop

·         People Are Strange

·         Seven Seas

·         Bedbugs And Ballyhoo

·         Holy Moses

·         All My Colors (Zimbo)

·         Over The Wall

·         Constantinople

·         All The Jazz

·         Bring On The Dancing Horses

·         The Killing Moon

·         The Cutter

ENCORE

·         Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk On The Wild Side/ Don’t Let Me Down
In The Midnight Hour

·         Lips Like Sugar

ENCORE 2

·         Ocean Rain

  Echo and the Bunnymen Meteorites - Live at Saint Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan 2014
Echo and the Bunnymen Meteorites - Live at Saint Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan 2014
  Echo and the Bunnymen Meteorites - Live at Saint Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan 2014
Echo and the Bunnymen Meteorites - Live at Saint Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan 2014
  Echo and the Bunnymen Meteorites - Live at Saint Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan 2014
Echo and the Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar - Sire Records 1987 - Their First Big Radio Break

Echo and the Bunnymen - First Look - Constantinope - From The Meteorites Album

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Echo and the Bunnymen - LIVE Ocean Rain

Echo and the Bunnymen - Meteorites Tour 2014

Echo and the Bunnymen - Meteorites Album Review >>>>

 

“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.

 
 
 
 
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Echo and the Bunnymen - Meteorites at the Metro in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit

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