Photographs by Maya Setton.
Dimming lights and booming Gregorian chants heralded Echo & the Bunnymen’s arrival. The mood was reverent. Garbed in a thick black coat and dark glasses, frontman Ian McCulloch played the shadowy priest role all too well. When the keening guitars of 2014’s Meteorites kicked in, things got dark, sinister and exciting. Judging by the roar from the crowd, if he’d asked for a blood sacrifice there’d be a long line. Evoking effortless cool, McCulloch gave the crowd a quick smile before launching into Rescue, from their 1980 debut Crocodiles. Suffice to say, things got heated. A heaving mass of fans lost themselves to nostalgic reverie, screaming with elation.
Seasoned performers, the set was impeccably structured. Flowing seamlessly between classics and recent releases, each song seemed to up the ante. I swore the dirty Louisiana tinged Doors cover People Are Strange would meet no equal, grimy and laconic, finding the breaths perfectly. That is, until Over The Wall slunk in, ominous and menacing. Drums hit like lightning flashes. Finding balance, the track soared heroically, filling the hall. Dropping back to silence, a scathing solo erupted forth, guitar shredded mercilessly. Tapering to a lingering hold, the track was engulfed by a cacophony of cheers.
“I’m not sure if we need a sing-a-long” smirked McCulloch, before launching into a trio of crowd favourites. During Bring On The Dancing Horses, almost dwarfed by the audience’s chanting, he turned the mic on the crowd. “That was shite” he laughed, cocksure grin on his face. Giving them a chance for redemption in the next chorus, the singing swelled. “That was it” he grinned. Iconic anthems The Killing Moon and The Cutter rounded out the set, whipping the audience into a frenzy. Thrusting a triumphant fist into the air, the band left to roaring approval.
Rising to a clamour, the crowd’s howl lasted ‘til the band’s return. Their fealty was rewarded by a sensational performance of Nothing Lasts Forever, punctuated by excerpts of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, The Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down and Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour. A unique spectacle that’d leave fans buzzing. Not to be topped, they finished with an enthralling, shifting rendition of Lips Like Sugar. Dark and foreboding, interposed with sharp calls and heavy reverb, the song shifted like a stalking animal. A magnetic and engrossing act. It twisted through tense contemplation and visceral rage before turning back on itself for the chorus. It was a dominant end to an enthralling set.
Except it wasn’t. After an enduring stream of clapping, the band took the stage for one last track, Ocean Rain. A wistful acoustically driven number that had the crowd swaying back and forth, it was the perfect way to round off an epic 100 minute performance. With a simple “thank you Toronto” the band walked off for good to a well-deserved ovation.