Someone in the print department at the Brixton Academy may be in trouble over the posters – they appear to have James as the headline band with Echo & The Bunnymen supporting. Clearly some mistake. The venue is completely full as everyone seems to have checked the stage times in advance so they don’t miss the support act. Echo & The Bunnymen are due on at a ridiculously early 7.45pm, so for Ian McCulloch and band it must be the equivalent of playing a festival in daylight – a big no no. They are on fine form though and the trio of ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘The Killing Moon’ (introduced by McCulloch as “the best song ever written”) and closing track ‘The Cutter’ simply rip through the place. Will Sergeant’s guitar is on the attack and the audience go crazy as soon as they hear his intro riffs – especially on ‘The Cutter’. These songs have lost none of their power and if it means the faithful have to come out a bit too early to hear them then so be it.
When the stage crew peel away the Bunnymen’s equipment to reveal James’ stage set up and start tuning up you could be looking at the actual band members themselves, such is the mystery as to what they actually look like. It is certainly more about the songs than the image for James.
That said, it doesn’t deter singer Tim Booth arriving in a pair of trousers bigger than the stage. Messianic poses are the order of the day as the band roll out the first of many hits namely ‘How Was It For You?’ - which sees Booth jumping into the photographers' pit to soak up every moment - and ‘Seven’. Their run of breakthrough singles can’t be argued with, the material from that era is strong and gets stronger still with a rousing ‘Sit Down’ which Booth teasingly says was written by Peter Kaye, referencing its status as unofficial Comic Relief 2013 song. ‘She’s A Star’ works well the way it is presented – almost a capella, really giving Booth’s voice some power and with just a teasing hint of guitar behind it. A slight dent in their armour comes when the dreaded line is uttered “This is a new one,” – the band seem unsure of the parts and Tim Booth needs to read his lyrics off a sheet of A4 paper, never a good way to try and connect with a crowd of three thousand people.
If a headline slot is decided between two bands solely on the merit of how many hit singles they’ve had then, on paper, James more than deserve the slot. On the other hand, if a band that shaped a decade both sonically and with their image have to go on especially early to remind everyone how great they are, then it is a shame. On this outing Echo & The Bunnymen are the ones leaving us shaking in our boots, as the guitars fade out from their final song.
Words by James Young
Photos by Rachel Lipsitz
Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here.