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Live Review: Echo and the Bunnymen at The Vic Theatre • Chicago

| September 11, 2022

Echo and the Bunnymen

The Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Review and photos by Jeff Elbel

Echo and the Bunnymen returned to the Vic Theatre on Wednesday, bringing a tour dubbed “40 Years of Magical Songs.” The show emphasized the English alternative rockers’ influential first five albums, including 1980 debut Crocodiles, 1981’s Heaven Up Here, 1983’s Porcupine, 1985’s classic Ocean Rain, and 1987’s self-titled release. The title track from 2001’s Flowers album was an added surprise for devoted fans. The elephant in the room was the health of singer Ian McCulloch, which forced last-second postponements just over two weeks ago as the tour kicked off. McCulloch performed seated on a high stool for the main set, with a road case loaded with various drinks and potions at his side. Despite the concerns raised by these sights, the singer was an enviably strong voice. The show opened with a string of early songs, rapidly reeling off “Going Up,” “Show of Strength,” “All That Jazz,” and “Rescue” with confidence and commitment. Guitarist Will Sergeant, sporting a burly beard he didn’t have the last time he graced the stage at the Vic, lashed into his familiar Fender Jazzmaster and created his bristling signature sounds with an array of effects pedals and processors. Sergeant transitioned to a classic psych-pop styled Vox Teardrop 12-string for “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” which lost a measure of its dreamy vibe as the band tore through the song at an uncharacteristically breakneck tempo.

The overall mood was regained during “All My Colours (Zimbo),” performed under deep blue light and blankets of fog. Some corners of the room fell under the harsh light of four aircraft landing-styled lamps, however, meaning certain fans experienced the show as if staring into the sun while others gazed into shadowy darkness. The sparkling “Seven Seas” was a mid-set highlight, with gliding bass and lively background vocals provided by Stephen Brannan. “Nothing Lasts Forever” from 1997’s post-Electrafixion comeback Evergreen was expanded into a medley as McCulloch sang Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and got the crowd to provide the “doo do doo” backing vocals. “Sing along, dance, whatever you wanna do,” said McCulloch by way of invitation in his otherwise impenetrable Liverpudlian accent afterward.

The Doors-like “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo” followed, featuring a glistening piano solo. Sergeant sent clattering guitar figures and blasts of energy into the room, set against the cool rhythm of “Over the Wall.” McCulloch sang the chorus in an ecstatic voice and quoted Del Shannon’s “Runaway” as the Bunnymen improvised and built the energy to a fever pitch. After the thrilling “Never Stop,” and a cover of the Doors’ “People are Strange,” the set concluded with “The Cutter.” McCulloch gave the song’s second chorus entirely to the crowd, who sang with a full-throated roar before the band exploded back into action. McCulloch abandoned his stool when returning with the band for three single-song encores. The Bunnymen led the crowd in a rowdy version of “Lips Like Sugar,” followed by an emotional version of brooding rocker “The Killing Moon” that saw the return of Sergeant’s chiming Teardrop 12-string. The show finished with the soothing “Ocean Rain.” McCulloch’s seated presence notwithstanding, he sang his heart out for Chicago and the band played with conviction. The evening’s only real disappointment was the omission of the new song “Brussels is Haunted,” which has been road-tested at most Bunnymen dates this year. That song would have provided a hint to Chicago-based fans of more good things to come from the Bunnymen.

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews

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