Echo and the Bunnymen: 40 Years of Magical Songs

There was an electric undercurrent of excitement as fans shuffled into the Corona Theater last Monday night to see legendary post punk/new wave act, Echo and the Bunnymen. The band is currently on a tour of North America celebrating over 40 years since the band’s incarnation in Liverpool’s punk scene in the early 80s. 

Among the crowd there was a mutual understanding that this concert was meant to be a celebration. Fans brought out their inner goth accordingly, by dressing in leather, Victorian-style frills and with spiked hair that seemed to go in every direction. Others sported black post-punk band t-shirts;, perhaps to quietly boast, or better yet, to revel in the crowd’s shared love for all things gloomy. 

Right on time, the first act quickly and cautiously entered the stage.They were Bye Parula, a local act whose debut album is set to come out this January. They performed with an ecstatic enthusiasm that only an up-and-coming band could possess. In between songs, the lead singer explained how indebted he was to be performing with a legendary act such as the Bunnymen, as well as how he heard the news that his band would be opening: by receiving a phone call from lead singer Ian McCulloch while doing his laundry. 

After the first act closed up shop, an impatient crowd watched as the roadies meticulously set up the next band’s gear. Yes, the usual standard stuff but this time with one eccentricity. Next to McCulloch’s microphone was a table with three glasses lined up neatly in a row containing whisky, beer and milk. The last item was the most peculiar, an unopened bear shaped jar of honey, sitting and ready for duty. 

Once the lights went down and the crowd saw the first few silhouettes emerge from the fog, there was an almost religious exultation. The association of the image of Ian McCulloch and the Bunnymen are that of gritty black and white photographs from inner vinyl sleeves, film footage from foggy clubs and mysterious album art that depict figures as part of the larger, dark wonder of nature. Here they were now performing 40 years later, bringing the image of themselves to life while simultaneously keeping the fantasized narrative pulsing.

They opened with the chilling riff of “Going Up”, which couldn't had been a better start seeing as it's the first song off their debut album Crocodiles released in 1980. The set list was indulgent for fans, the majority of songs featured from their beloved early albums. The crowd, becoming an untrained choir, sang along to the band’s most popular songs with McCulloch playfully letting the crowd take over a few choruses. But when he did return to the mic, McCulloch’s vocals spindled and bounced, curved and dropped, as only a raw and masterful voice can. It was indeed a privilege to hear a vocalist who has such a short path from the voice to the soul. 

Echo and the Bunnymen are continuing their tour across North America with a handful of east coast dates, all while enchanting audiences from city to city.