The inimitable Ian McCulloch and fellow founding member and guitarist Will Sergeant are taking the Bunnymen out for their regular jaunt around the UK in a proper old-school tour under the banner of ‘Songs To Learn And Play’, which sees the legendary Scouse post-punk jangly pop sulks perform some of their biggest hits and some rather deep cuts to an appreciative audience that is packed into the Great Hall on a school night.

As the stage is bathed in enough dry ice to worry the Sisters Of Mercy at the peak of their powers This line up of Bunnymen amble onto the University stage to enthusiastic applause and proceed to get down to business. I’ll admit to breaking my own code by seeing some setlists of previous nights of this tour and they’ve pretty much stuck to the script give or take a track or two and tonight ‘Going Up’ kicked off the first half of proceedings. The mix was crisp and clear as McCulloch stood in the centre of the stage with his trade mark glasses leaning on his mic stand as he sang he doesn’t move a great deal – I’d worry he’d fall off stage because there’s no way he can see further than his hand so thick is the smoke.

To his right is Sergeant swapping guitars from one vintage classic to another depending on the song and its needs and playing his sparse but poignant lead breaks but the music is absolutely spot on and the balance is superb ‘All That Jazz’ sounded really good and the audience felt it too. Stephen Brannan – bass
Simon Finley – drums, Pete Reilly on guitar and Mike Smith – keyboards really added to the sound and proved to be an exceptional band. ‘Flowers’ provided a mellow moment that is perfect for the band’s minimalist backlight and shadow show it creates as the silhouette of Mac has always worked really well. The iconic guitar intro of ‘Rescue’ punctures the air. Of the songs in the First half of the set ‘Zimbo’ worked really well and sounded superb. but after the one-two of ‘Never Stop’ and ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’ it was time for the half time team talk.

The spread of tracks was really good tonight and after forty-five minutes the band were to take a short break which seemed a little odd it’s not like they’ve just spent the first half charging around the stage like the youth team and needed a half-time team talk and orange and a brief rub down from the physio before going back out fo the second half but hey what do I know maybe they did.

Yet more dry ice is belched onto the stage and the second half is underway with a sprightly ‘Show Of Strength’. By the time we hit ‘Seven Seas’ my tiny brain is racing with memories of being in school and hearing the song for the first time and loving that bass line and string arrangement. This was and still is the sound of a perfectly arranged guitar pop song and The Bunnymen were the masters of it. ‘Nothing Lasts Forever turned into Walk On The Wildside’ and I was taken back to buying the comeback single in Woolworths of all places. time flies and whilst Woolies might be gone but the Bunnymen are still going strong and the audience is in fine voice and Mac seems to appreciate the backing vocals. His banter is a mumbling word soup for most as they either can’t understand his accent or he’s mumbling or the dry mic is so low most are shouting what? Not that Mac gives a fuck anyway but some of his banter is audible and makes me giggle. There is time for some more humour as the band cocked up the intro on ‘Unstoppable Force’ and have to restart the song which shows the human side of this live performance.

The second half is brought to an end with a hattrick of classics from ‘Bedbugs’ followed by the classic ‘Killing Moon’ and ended with the show-stopping genre topping ‘Cutter’ and we were done for the second half which led to a brief stage exit before returning to play through a blindingly good ‘Lips Like Sugar’ and then they were done with no t’ra or adios and there was no second encore tonight as the house lights went up and the entertained Cardiff audience made for the exit after being guided through another magnificent trip through the very best of Jangly post-punk guitar pop courtesy of the peerless Echo and The Bunnymen. Can we do this all again in say, another twelve months time after a new studio album please Mac? Ta very much fella its been wonderful. Always a pleasure and never a chore.

Author: Dom Daley