The Italians certainly like their Sundays

Mark-E-Smith-lead-singer--001So… the Fall… um… what the fuck?

The Fall, Bristol

I’m still pretty much a beginner when it comes to Fall gigs – the old lags with me had racked up close to fifty caps between them – but there are certain things I’ve gathered you should expect:

  • He’ll be drunk – he certainly was that, stumbling around (and occasionally off-) stage like, well, Mark E Smith;
  • He’ll be incoherent – no question about that, I don’t think I caught anything he said all evening;
  • He’ll fiddle with the amps and other equipment – check. At one point, during Sir William Wray, Pete Greenway was unplugged completely for the whole song;
  • These days, his band will be tight – well, they certainly were top notch, and a good job too. By the end of the evening, with the Man increasingly absent from songs and performing his encore from the dressing room, they were pretty much the only thing left standing.

And yet, bizarrely, I did enjoy the set (pitifully short as it was) I really did.

And so, by the sounds of things did many other people. For most of the set, careening figures could be seen in front of the stage, taking the mike when offered and a few brave souls getting on stage and dancing self-consciously through the encore. Indeed, if the house lights hadn’t been switched on promptly at eleven, there’d certainly have been calls for more. Talking to another couple of newbies at the end, we raved about the set and chuckled indulgently over Smith’s antics.

It was only in the car home, with older heads talking about Smith’s offhand carelessness with his material (not to mention his audience) and muttering darkly about not bothering to come out again, that I started to view the evening in a more sober light.

Still, I was surprised, though, when I listened back to the recording to hear just how poor a set it was. Smith’s voice seems alarmingly fragile, a few helium tones higher at times, sounding almost as if he’s been speeded up on some songs. And yes, his heedless drawl has been turned up to eleven, to the extent that he was barely even forming the words of the song he was singing. It was a bit embarrassing.

He spent a lot of the evening sat behind the guitarist’s amp, leaving the band to get on with the job, and barely joined in with my favourite new song, Hittite Man, leaving Elena Poulou to fill in for most of it. The sparkling new record was largely unused – no Loadstones, no Kinder of Spine, Hittite Man and Sir William Wray both spoilt – instead he relied on his go-to live material.

In the cold light of day, it was all rather disappointing, but looking at the Fall forum, we may just have been unlucky – the gigs before and after seem to have been better affairs.

As a matter of interest, I went back and listened to the recording I took the previous time I saw the Fall, in 2009, and also at another recording I have of their set at End of the Road in 2011.

Well, let’s just say the comparison is not particularly favourable…

Here are a couple of slightly grimy recordings – I’m not keen on the sound at the Trinity:


Jet Plane


Plus, here’s a version of Chino from the Metropolis, November 2009.

Certainly is a fine line between ragged-arse genius and just being ragged-arse…

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The train comes to take you where you’ve got to be | Partly Porpoise

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