Review: Echo and the Bunnymen stun fans by leaving Bristol Beacon stage after just 30 minutes 

The legendary Liverpool band's sell-out gig at Bristol Beacon was a gig of two halves
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Legendary Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen have had a tricky relationship with their Bristol fans over the years.

I know some lifelong fans of the band who can’t even be bothered to see them on tour these days after their disastrous and disappointing Bristol Harbourside show in 2018. It wasn’t pretty.

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Their first appearance at Bristol Beacon, however, still sold out but by the time the band appeared on stage, 15 minutes later than the scheduled 9pm start time, even some of their most dedicated fans were getting a little twitchy.

But then frontman Ian McCulloch has always been a law unto himself and he swaggered on stage with his five-piece band to a deafening cheer.

These days it’s only McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant left from the original line-up but it doesn’t matter a bit to their fans, many of whom have stuck by them for 45 years. I first saw the band at Colston Hall 41 years ago and it’s still etched on my memory.

Like Peter Pan, McCulloch has never really wanted to grow up, or at least he still wants his fans to remember him as he was in the band's 1980s heyday. And his voice still sounds great, if a little hoarser and tobacco-stained.

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But for a frontman who always stole the limelight, he now prefers to perform in virtual darkness - or hazy pink and blue lights - and although Sergeant is occasionally given a bright spotlight for guitar solos, McCulloch doesn’t. The 80s icon prefers to stay cool as a dry ice-shrouded silhouette with his trademark spiky mop and sunglasses.

Things started well with old favourites Going Up and All That Jazz. These were followed by Rescue, All My Colours (Zimbo) and a blistering version of 1983 classic Never Stop.

Echo and The Bunnymen on stage at Bristol Beacon (photo: Mark Taylor)Echo and The Bunnymen on stage at Bristol Beacon (photo: Mark Taylor)
Echo and The Bunnymen on stage at Bristol Beacon (photo: Mark Taylor)

But after Bring on The Dancing Horses, the house lights came back on and the band left the stage 30 minutes after they appeared.

McCulloch told the audience to ‘go and have a bevvy’ and they would be back on stage in 20 minutes, much to the surprise of some fans who were clearly in the zone by now.

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Perhaps this was for a much needed ‘comfort break’ for McCulloch, who turns 65 in May, but it slightly ruined the momentum to have a 20-minute interval after only 30 minutes.

But they returned on stage at 10pm to dust off eight more songs, including Over The Wall, Seven Seas and Nothing Lasts Forever, which generated a mass singalong as it morphed into Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.

And the best was still to come as Sergeant strapped on his 12-string guitar and played the iconic intro to The Killing Moon, which was quickly followed by a belting version of The Cutter.

The band then returned for an encore of an extended Lips Like Sugar, McCulloch going into one of his famously rambling and barely audible anecdotes and observations (mostly about his OCD), and then they were off again.

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A large number of people drifted off to get their last bus home - it was now just before the 11pm curfew - but the band made a surprise second return to perform another classic, this time Ocean Rain, which they hadn’t previously performed on this tour.

So, a gig literally of two halves, and as unpredictable as ever, but the Bunnymen’s return to Bristol was ultimately a triumphant one and I was humming The Killing Moon all the way home.

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