Update [Oct27/09, 11:50 pm]: Wonderful show by Echo and The Bunnymen last week which was hard to put into words until now, but here I go finally.
I've been basking in the dreamy memories of Echo and The Bunnymen's performance last week at Queen Elizabeth Theatre to perform their classic fourth album, 1984's "Ocean Rain" with an orchestra in tow. It was a mini-orchestra about 9 or 10 members strong complete with conductor and while it doesn't even come close to the 35-member orchestra that participated in the recording of the original studio album, it was as close to the real thing as I could have imagined. I have vague memories of seeing the music video for "The Killing Moon" on Much Music or hearing the song on CFNY back in the 80's but I'd only acquired a vinyl copy of "Ocean Rain" back in the 90's[which has multiplied into several more copies I'd picked up on the cheap - and no I don't plan to get rid of them or sell them]. I upgraded to a CD copy which I picked up at the Flagship Sam The Record Man before it closed but it was only last year that I'd really obsessed about it when I'd just about christened my new Zune mp3 player with it[along with a few other albums] and had it on repeat for the whole summer. It was a real treat to hear the album live with an orchestra as it was fully intended to be heard.
Before the piece de resistance "Ocean Rain" portion of the evening, the band warmed up the crowd with a 'hits' set. Brief as it was, the setlist touched on their first three albums "Crocodiles", "Heaven Up Here" and "Porcupine" as well as several latter day songs including a couple from their most recent album "The Fountain". I was just so glad to hear key tracks like "Rescue", "Bring On The Dancing Horses"(off of "Songs To Learn and Sing"), and "The Cutter" the latter prompting some a fit of selective dancing in the audience, all swaying arms and moving side to side as if it were the 80's all over again. I must mention that the attendance was comprised of many fans 3o years of ag and up, myself included, so no doubt there was a nostalgic element to the show. As I'd heard the older material, I realized how well it's held up, and while lead vocalist Ian McCulloch is sounding a little gravelly-voiced, he's still sounding much like his old self while guitarist Will Sargeant supple guitar playing is still a joy to hear. But as latter day tracks like the stupendously infectious "Stormy Weather"(off of "Siberia") had shown, Echo continue to be relevant also. As musically superb as it was up to that point, it was easy to forgive them for not being the most animated bunch. Although such presentation did in a sense help to uphold a mystique of a band that I'd for the most part visualized as stark, mysterious figures I'd seen them on their early album covers. However, once the perpetually-sunglass-wearing Mr. McCulloch had spoke a few words, I'd realized he was pretty much a regular Joe, especially as I recalled gave a shout out to his hometown of Liverpool, England, then said something about football, which prompted an audience member to stand and show his jersey
After a 20 minute intermission, and as the excitement in the audience was about to burst, the band and orchestra took the stage and dove right into "Silver", the first track off of "Ocean Rain". But man those strings, oh those glorious strings. It was pure heaven. As the band performed, the audience's eyes were drawn to the black and white images of the band in their hey day, projected behind the band who for the most part stood in shadow or dim lighting for most of the evening. There's something very poignant about seeing photos of bands in their youth although perhaps none more poignant than seeing photos of former member Les Pattinson or the late Pete De Freitas which drew an extra response from the crowd. "The Killing Moon" was obviously the 'hit' everyone was waiting for and was hard for me not to sing a long at times. Front to back, it's such a terric album but hearing "Crystal Days", "My Kingdom" and "Seven Seas" were my particular favourites. While the original album was barely 40 minutes it was pretty obvious that the band might come back for a few more, and come back they did, performing a couple more including their big hit "Lips Like Sugar", revved up in the guitars it seemed for the new millenium but drawing me instantaneously back to 1987 when I was an awkward teen obsessed with music and bands like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain and New Order. Some things never change.
Check out a review and photos of the show over at Chromewaves.
Photos: Echo & The Bunnymen @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto (October 20, 2009)
Myspace: Echo & The Bunnymen