- 01 Sep 19
Two Gangs Of Heroes For The Price Of One
The temperature has dropped a bit, the night has crept in. Perfect conditions for the mighty Mac, the equally commendable Will Sergeant, and their Echo And The Bunnymen troupe. They kick off with 'Rescue Me' - perhaps the plea of more than one reveller after a few days of this Picnic action - and straight away we're in good hands. Ian McCulloch looks the part, as he has done for the last forty-odd years. A good hair cut, a leather jacket and a pair of shades, you'd be disappointed to see him in anything else. Sergeant's guitar still sounds like someone scraping glass with a rusty nail, and I mean that in a good way. "Is this the blues I'm singing?" No, it isn't. Thank Christ. The Bunnymen never went down the roots avenue that tripped up some of their contemporaries.
The tribal drum tattoo of 'Bedbugs & Ballyhoo' affects a lot of the hips and legs under the canvas as does 'Seven Seas' from the all-time, I'll brook no arguments, classic album Ocean Rain. We go all the way back to their debut album for "Villiers Terrace' which slows down to incorporate bits of The Doors' 'Roadhouse Blues'. Mac doesn't do an awful amount of talking. A few "nice one"s is about the size of it, although he does introduce Heaven Up Here's 'Over The Wall' as "one of the many standards we do". A pulse builds up, Sergeant takes the e-bow to the guitar and it clangs into a dry ice, icy jam.
'Nothing Lasts Forever' is, maybe, their last truly great song and while Mac may not quite have the pipes for it anymore, he carries it with presence, including a bit of Lou Reed's 'Walk On The Wild Side' moved to the Mersey side. The "do, do, do" bit has the crowd in, happy to help out. Mac does a wildly effective single clap into the microphone. "All the shadows and the pain are coming to you" It's a moment. He's still iconic as fuck.
It's a purpose-built, crowd-pleasing festival set. Hit heavy, and welcome at that. The jagged jangle of 'Never Stop', 'Bring On The Dancing Horses' gives the drummer some - well, a bit - and 'The Cutter' - Mac's voice getting stronger as he goes on - breaks down to a noisy finish. 'Killing Moon' - again from Ocean Rain, have I told you how great that album is? -is taken over by the faithful, Mac even hushing the band at the end to let us sing, and they finish out with 'Lips Like Sugar', during which The Mac appears to ball up a scarf and kick it in to the crowd. Was this the most passionate and compelling live performance of all time? No, but it was good and with songs like those, you can't really go wrong. We left happy. Job Done.
Not Only, But Also...
It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention, in passing, the mighty Sack. I only caught the first fifteen minutes of the set at the Jerry Fish stage as I was contractually obliged to head off to the Bunnymen, but it was one of the best fifteen minutes of the weekend. Look at them. John Brereton plays his guitar with a concentration I last saw on my auld lad's face when I was trying to show him how to program the VCR. His brother Tony is wearing a fine stetson, as all the best men do, and while I've seen him before, I've never quite noticed what a brilliant drummer he really is. Martin McCann was born to be on a stage and as a frontman he really has few equals and could certainly wipe the floor with most of the current crop. Apparently, later on in the gig after I'd left, he took his shirt off and put a feather boa around his head. Music is crying out for more of that class of messing. And as for bass player Derek Lee, he's throwing shapes that Paul Simonon could only dream of and giving out the thousand-yard stare of a million "did you spill my pint?" encounters. Hearing songs as great as 'Colorado Springs', 'Latitude' and 'What Did The Christians Ever Do For Us?' one can't help but shake the head, spit out the name of a hundred unworthy "winners" and wonder why Sack aren't headlining. A great band.