mon 22/07/2024

The Fall, Concorde 2, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

The Fall, Concorde 2, Brighton

The Fall, Concorde 2, Brighton

Tight band plus rambling eccentric amounts to gold, as ever

39 years in the frontline and still doing it

Given how many members the band has had over its long existence, there will always be a running joke as to who’s who in The Fall? One thing we can say for certain is that the pretty, poised Greek woman on keyboards, the one who returns hand-in-hand with frontman Mark E Smith to the stage for the encore, is Elena Poulou, his wife of a decade-and-a-half. Alongside her, the band create a rollicking, potent brew.

It is, however, her husband who everyone’s come to see and, somehow, his slurred, haphazard, and unpredictable performance caps the whole thing off.

Where the usual stage time at the Concorde 2 is between 9.00 and 9.30 pm, Smith turns up at 10.22, clad in a black leather box jacket and navy shirt, buttoned high and belted at the waist in a tight, old-man-ish way, his sallow po-face sucked in as the band warm into a tune I think comes from their 2013 album Re-Mit. I should state at this point that I’m no expert in The Fall’s approximately 473 billion albums and Smith will, admirably, never be a greatest-hits kind of fellow (it turns out I needn’t have worried since most of the gig is drawn from the band’s recent album, Sub-Lingual Tablet). Whatever the song is, it sets the mood, Poulou’s keys adding melodic heft to the driving psyche gumbo.

Smith is not mellowing with age, that’s for sure

After the opener Smith produces a wodge of crumpled A4 paper from his right jacket pocket and consults it. Before long he is attacking a song called “Wise Old Man” that is, I’m told by a fan, brand-new. It is a drum assault with post-punk guitar attack. Smith and Poulou shout along to the title lyric. Smith is not mellowing with age, that’s for sure. Another such highlight is the rousing menace of 2015’s “Quit iPhone”, although, in fact, most of the lyrics are rendered as guttural animal sounds and, much of the time, the singer seems more interested in using his microphone to create feedback effects.

After the deranged down-tempo squawk of “Pledge” there's the standard break before an encore, and when the group return Smith finally hauls one out from back in the proverbial day. It’s a B-side from the 12” of the group’s 1988 hit Kinks cover “Victoria” – “Tuff Life Boogie” – and it has something of T Rex’s jollity about its riff, yet is still smeared with Smith’s sense of dissonance and grit. The man himself is by now messing around with three microphones: he holds two together in awkward un-rock’n’roll postures and sings into them as if they were alien objects.

The whole set has made me want to go back to Sub-Lingual Tablet and explore it’s spiky, psychedelic garage rock. This feeling is considerably amped up by the final tune of the encore. The band speed into the muscular, pulsing, jangling post-punk of “Auto Chip 2014-2016”. Its approval rating is represented by rowdy dancing at the front from the livelier members of the primarily male, middle-aged audience. Then the lights come up, around an hour after they went down. They’re a messy business, The Fall, and you never know quite what you’re going to get, but tonight their tight, abrasive musicianship combined with Smith’s undiluted, sneering eccentricity, lit a good fire.

Overleaf: listen to "Auto Chip 2014-2016"


The man himself holds two micro-phones together in awkward un-rock’n’roll postures and sings into them as if they were alien objects


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters