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The Fall live at Tripod, Dublin
It's a long fall with an unmistakable impact...
Craig Fitzsimons, 08 Apr 2008
We’ve come to bear witness to history. Sure, The Fall have been old news since long before the Berlin Wall came down. The embittered anti-Smith tirades that intermittently emanate from their many dozen ex-members do appear to possess the ring of truth. Their recorded output these days, while still sporadically brilliant (Fall Heads Roll, for a start), hasn’t possessed the mesmerising capacity to change one’s life in a single sitting since roughly 1991/2.
No matter: their mere presence is a treasure. Of all the iconic horsemen of the apocalypse who illuminated the ‘80s swamp-death-punk-poetry circuit and in the process dissuaded me from becoming an astronaut or nuclear physicist, Mark E is the last man standing. MacGowan hasn’t written in a decade (lazy bloody Paddies); Pierce overshot the mark as fast as he could; Cave has become worthy, middle-brow, chattering-class, Sunday-magazine material. But the inventor of ‘Northern white crap that talks back’ is still at it, still yelping out his bullet-hard, stream-of-consciousness spitfire against a beautifully cacophonous barrage of essential, unadorned garage-punk riffs.
Never the prettiest of individuals, Smith ("I sat and drank/For three decades/I’m 45") now looks so decrepit it’s impressive. The twinkle-eyed, audience-baiting barking brat of yesteryear doesn’t prowl the stage with quite the same hypnotic menace he once did, thirty-odd years of chemical warfare having frozen his features into a stolid, almost expressionless mask. He now rarely utters a word between songs (there was a time when Fall live LPs were awaited as eagerly for the intra-song digressions as anything else) and he’s content to delegate occasional vocal duties to Wife #3, the luminously lovely ‘Greek football hooligan’ Elena (‘English Chelsea fan this is your last game’).
Highlights? Obviously, it’s one great big highlight, but I observed the younger members of the audience going especially ballistic to more recent material (‘Pacifying Joint’ and the Harold Shipman-inspired ‘What About Us?’) while yours truly may well have yelped longest and loudest for ‘Wings’, a comparatively obscure back catalogue offering about gremlins and time travel, my interpretation of which space constraints rather tragically preclude me from explaining to you in full detail.