Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hex Enduction Hour

The Fall ~ Hackney Empire 31.10.08

Watching (and hearing) The Fall isn’t necessarily a comfortable experience - its not as if they are a collective of equal sharing democrats; neither do they subscribe to any capitalist ethos where profits dictate success ~ It's not by accident that the event was billed as Mark E. Smith presents The Fall.
Mark E. Smith wandered onto the stage to join the latest, already grooving, incarnation of his band at The Hackney Empire last night to a boozy crowd, good-naturedly rowdy after being subjected to some experimental video torture which constituted the last of three support acts which included Bobbie Peru and John Cooper Clark.
Smith, all elbows and gurning, incongruously old amongst a relatively young band gave us a smouldering hour of The Fall: brilliance teetering on the lip of disaster.

The first thing that becomes evident is that Smith (although appearing three sheets to the wind) is in absolute control of the proceedings – or rather, he is the random element that is threatening to bring the whole thing crashing down into chaos. He scatters his lyric sheets untidily next to the drum kit, twiddles knobs on the Bass and Lead guitarists’ amps; drags his two (who needs two?) microphones around the stage in a tangle of wires, leaving one of them nestled inside the bass drum thereby subjecting the audience to screeching feedback; takes a random 5 second turn at the keyboard, wanders off stage on more than one occasion for purposes only to be guessed at, and on order to bring about the end of one particular song, signals to the drummer with a thumb-slit-across-the-throat.

The band themselves are superb: stolid, solid and focussed as if their lives depended on it – which in fact is probably the case, since that the only constant member of the Fall is the little dictator himself, Smith, notorious for treating his band like a football team, changes of personnel being a constant feature of The Fall’s 32 year journey along the edge.

I don’t claim to be a big-time Fall fan, the three albums spanning 1984 to 1986* where as long as I stuck with them, but it was at the request of my 14 year old son that I went last night, and I am very happy that I did.
I found myself watching in awe at the dynamic created between, on one hand, Smith’s carte blanch treatment of the band and the subsequent tension created, and on the other hand, the audience’s absolute sense of euphoria at being in the presence of a musical experience which, even after 32 years and (perhaps because of) numerous personnel changes, remains sharp, fresh and on edge – no dialogue between songs, no “you’ve been a wonderful audience”, just pure buzz.
Watching (and hearing) The Fall isn’t always a comfortable experience, but it’s an experience worth having.

*The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall; This Nation’s Saving Grace & Bend Sinister

Photographs by DanMud


R.E.II said...

Just wondering whether you remember me? The flying monkeys? Ill just have to wait and see and I would like to return here?

Pisces Iscariot said...

Of course I remember - welcome back - I will visit you soon