Sunday, October 18
Some seventy members have passed through The Fall and its various line-ups, the one constant being Mark E. Smith chewing on consonants, spitting out the remnants of vowel-sounds, butchering words to make mangled performance-poetry, a churning groove beneath and all around him.
This version of the band has been at it across a small handful of albums now – and in keeping with The Fall’s ethos, experimentation, moving onward, it’s those recent albums that are ransacked for this evening’s set.
Mr. Smith prowls the stage from time to time, nearly disappears now and then, and stands with two microphones death-gripped above his face, like he’s clutching his racetrack winnings in one hand, his last pack of smokes in the other and shouting to the world that will listen about all manner of nonsense.
What makes it work – chiefly – is that this is Mark E. Smith. He’s alive, if not well, and that will do. We are there just to see him be. What makes this really work is the rhythm section, Keiron Melling (drums) and David Spurr (bass). They are possibly too slick, too clever, too sharp for some, but they’re needed here to navigate through choppy seas of dub-inflected punk and post-punk,
a huge thrum of bass proud and ominous – it’s as if a version of Public Image Ltd and the bottom end of Killing Joke have got to chatting while Mark E. Smith clatters his remaining teeth atop.
My Door Is Never feels like the early highlight, Smith’s delivery is at its best – the band doing their wonderful stumble-lurch with Peter Greenway’s lacerating guitar and Elena Poulou’s Fisher-Price My-First-Organ stabs providing the punctuation for Smith’s mumble-jabs.
As this version of The Fall rebuilds Krautrock from the post-punk detritus of however many other line-ups Smith has presided over, shaking his fist when he can be bothered, the realisation arrives that this is as good as The Fall in 2015 could ever be. Far worse than that, obviously, for anyone expecting “the hits”, but even better when you stop to think that in this lifetime you really only encounter an actual handful of truly original bands.
The encore cover of The Other Half’s Mr. Pharmacist, a garage-rock cult-classic, gave the audience enough of a hint of what The Fall had been back in the day. But the blistering set of defiant non-classics was ear-openingly wonderful.
It worked well having Wellington’s Spines in support, another band that’s been around forever, its line-up changing through the years, its sound being reinvented with just enough of a trace of the guiding spirit always.