Ian McCulloch. 8.4.17. The Sage 2.


It’s the return of the… “Oh wait, no way, your kidding, He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?”

I did yes. And it was funny and a sign of what’s coming next, so pay attention.

Any outing by Mac, the original mouthy, self-obsessed, northern front man is always going to be value for money.  Primarily because he’s always going to play the hits, and the hits are always worth seeing, and because it’s the live setting that best showcases the contradiction between the tough northern male and the heart on sleeve, vulnerable, soul brother that came to define some of the most interesting music of the ‘80s.

Aided only by a guitar, and mostly playing acoustically, Mac places Bunnymen songs into a stripped back territory that focuses our attention onto their tight Beatle-esque melodies rather than the gloom rock of the Doors. It’s a trick that works well and reframes the songs as soulful, British, pop rather than the droned, American, goth sound which they became known for.

A set focused heavily on tracks from ‘Heaven up Here’ and ‘Crocodiles’, as well as Lou Reed covers, Mac is sufficiently gracious to give the audience what they paid to see.  Though almost 60 his voice is still a strong weapon in the fight for hedonism (‘what a fucking voice’ Mac let’s us know) and any sign of age provides extra soul in the way that  blues singers sound better as their voice croaks and strains.

Between song banter works well at first, though sections of the crowd take the humour too far and end up disrupting sections of the show.  Mac himself ends up walking off stage for a few minutes in seeming frustration at during-song talking by one particularly loud group.  These elements take the shine off a great evening and a solid performance, itself almost a perfect case study for the pros and cons of hedonism.

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