Thursday, October 2, 2008
ECHO, A BUNNYMAN, AND SOME OTHER PEOPLE
Hyped as the only U.S. appearance (!) Echo & The Bunnymen's really big shoe at Radio City Music Hall may have been just a little too big. The attendees, 5000 or so fans of the gloomy, post-punk band, seemed a little less excited than they should have been, considering what was on the menu--two sets, the second being the classic album "Ocean Rain" played in it's entirety, backed by an orchestra. But my perception could be off. Radio City is a more likely host for Josh Groban or A Christmas Spectacular with a dancing Nativity, not a rock and roll show. The Echo excitement may have gotten lost in the airplane hangar hall.
Kicking off with my personal fave, "Lips Like Sugar," Ian McCulloch and original Bunnyman Will Sergeant (who was so far to the right of McCulloch, he might as well have been in the NBC store across the street trying on "Chuck" t-shirts) backed by a tight band of hired hands, sounded inspired. McCulloch's voice still dramatic and sexy, hasn't changed much in 25 years. Some more hits, "The Rescue," "The Cutter," "Bring on The Dancing Horses," and even their b-side Doors cover, "People Are Strange," all sounded...well...good. I wanted it to sound great. I wanted it to be loud. I wanted to get sweaty.
After a brief intermission, which felt like 15 minutes of silence inside the plush, hardly rocking music hall, the band returned with the "orchestra," which from the 15th row, seemed to be little more than a bunch of cellos and violins, and launched into Side One of "Ocean Rain." And again, the band sounded...well...good. After the initial thrill of hearing some strings, the "orchestra" seemed superfluous. By the time the band started "Crystal Days," the orchestra could have been playing across the street at the NBC store, next to the "Chuck" t-shirts and I don't think anyone would have noticed the difference.
The real problem with last night's performance was not the band. It was the venue. Many I know poo-poo hockey barns like Madison Square Garden when it comes to concerts. But there is no denying the electricity from being inside that legendary building. You know you're at a concert as soon as those lights dim and the crowd rises to its feet, cheering for the opening notes. Echo & The Bunnymen may not have been able to fill MSG, and with the Beacon Theatre (my choice for NYC's best concert venue) undergoing renovation (which on the Upper West Side of Manhattan usually means a new nail salon,) RCMH may have been the most appealing choice for McCulloch and friends. For that, they can't be blamed. But for me, what could have a been a triumphant return by a well-respected band, was nothing more than a polite gathering with some music in the background.