Echo & The Bunnymen eventually excel at Derngate after a meandering set

The band were back at Royal & Derngate in Northampton with Alan McGee in tow on Wednesday night after previously headlining the venue in 2018.

By Phil Moore
Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:51 pm
Echo & The Bunnymen on stage at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.
Echo & The Bunnymen on stage at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

Outside of the auditorium, an Echo & The Bunnymen fan is overheard saying to another, “They’re going through the motions, why do I keep coming back?”

It’s a great question to ask about the Liverpool legends. When you’re still going after 43 years, what’s a bands motivation?

With just two of the original four Bunnymen left - singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant - and them famously fractious at times, keeping this unit on the road can’t be the easiest thing.

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Echo & The Bunnymen on stage at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

The answer is simple really, the songs. As one of the most successful of the many Liverpool new wave acts, their status is up there with the best of their generation.

This is why the band exist in 2022. This is why we are here in our many hundreds tonight. And this is why it’s worthy of review .

We care deeply about this body of work. For when it sparkles it soars like the best of them.

Not that you think about the dizzy heights during the opening few songs, which are strangely subdued in both audience reaction and band performance.

Echo & The Bunnymen on stage at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

McCulloch, resplendent head to toe in black and wearing his trademark sunglasses, is barely visible in the darkness.

They take the idiosyncratic / very confident route of playing four album tracks to kick things off.

The energy in the room palpably rises when Rescue’s gloriously jangly introduction finally shimmers into view.

From now on the gig does what it should do, draw us in closer and closer to the emotional centre of the group.

Echo & The Bunnymen on stage at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

Following the singalong Bring On The Dancing Horses, Sergeant excels with his guitar runs on Over The Wall.

McCulloch is enjoying the audience banter this evening. We talk about the Liverpool score (always a painful experience for this writer, as an Everton fan), and later there’s a story about mosquito bites during old adventures in the south of France.

The details aren't important, even if you do speak Scouse and can catch what he says.

It provides a solid familiarity, of shared experience and history and the collective wisdom of knowing what we know now.

Alan McGee, DJing ahead of Echo & The Bunnymen at Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo by David Jackson.

With Ocean Rain now rightly considered a classic album, the first sighting of its presence tonight with Seven Seas is a thrilling moment.

There’s just the one moment that brings us back to the present, new song Brussels Is Haunted is quite a lively number, all slashing guitars and forthright vocals.

Then we return to the classics. Villliers Terrace is gloriously vicious and segues as always into Roadhouse Blues.

McCulloch still has a voice to match the best, and it shows here.

The set ends in similar fashion to their last visit to the Derngate, with airings for their most beloved of songs - Lips Like Sugar, The Cutter and finally The Killing Moon.

It’s a devastatingly strong end to a meandering show.

You persevere because their gold shines brightest even among the murkiest waters.

We’ll miss them when they’re gone and so worship their flawed genius whilst we can.

Echo & The Bunnymen played:

Going Up

Show of Strength

All That Jazz

Flowers

Rescue / Broke My Neck

Bring On the Dancing Horses

Over the Wall

All My Colours (aka Zimbo)

Seven Seas

Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

Brussels Is Haunted

Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues

Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk On The Wild Side

Never Stop

Lips Like Sugar

Encore1: The Cutter

Encore 2: The Killing Moon