thu 23/05/2024

The Fall, The Garage | reviews, news & interviews

The Fall, The Garage

The Fall, The Garage

An evening of unearthly delights with the Wise Ol' Man of rock'n'roll

Mark E Smith: a way with wordsSteve Hampson

It's the first night of The Fall's four-night residency at The Garage in Highbury, north London, a suitably small venue to get the full visceral rub of the current group – Elena Poulou on keyboards, guitarist Peter Greenaway, drummer Keiron Melling, and bassist Dave Spurr.

It’s the longest-lasting Fall line-up Mark E Smith has permitted in the group’s 40-year history, and they have a fabulous, wildly experimental and rough-at-the-edges new EP, Wise Ol' Man, and one of the best albums of The Fall’s latterday career – one of the best, full-stop – in Sublingual Tablet behind them.

Much of the 75-minute set, including a singalong two-song encore after the 11pm curfew (“Bury” and “White Lightning”), was drawn from these two platters – opening with “Venice with the Girls”, the venue’s sound clear, sharp and shaking the room, and followed by “Wolf Kidult Man”, a great iron riff of a song from 2008’s Imperial Wax Solvent. A brilliant extended exploration of “Dedication Not Medication” was scorched by Elena Poulou’s heavy battery of electronics.

The group is rigorous enough to set their sense of menace into a structure

Smith centred it all, right from the start, vocalising sight unseen over a slab of opiated electronica before the group’s entrance. Through extended, explosive live accounts of “Wise Ol' Man” and Sublingual’s best track “Auto Chip” to a heavy, dark “Hittite Man” from 2013’s Re-Mit, he sounded strong, focused, engaged, and even theatrical – hamming it up as he randomly set about Poulou’s keyboards with brute force, finding new ways to torment the sound desk with mic feedback, hunched over the amps at the rear, then stepping back out to fling his arm around Peter Greenaway’s neck, grinning like Salford’s answer to The Joker.

He’s frankly a menace – setting a speaker suspended over stage right into a swinging motion, just for the hell of it, distributing microphones like sweets, or howling "EASY CIRCLE!" into them from the edge of the stage through “Auto Chip” as Poulou’s low bass frequency wave of electronics sends ripples of disturbance through the audience. I see a young man in front of me go down, on that and Tuborg, at a guess.

The group is rigorous enough to set that sense of menace into a structure that won’t fall down – a Brutalist, unyielding architecture, around which the vocals and electronics move in freeform ways. The way Poulou pushes and pulls at her keyboard, as if she was summoning up ferocious, spasmodic visions in pure sound, is unique, burbling and pulsing over Dave Spurr’s massive bass sound and Melling’s powerful, driving drums, which are relentless and without deviation. You need that to control this kind of stuff, and The Fall and Mark E Smith are at their menacing, challenging best right now. This is rock n roll. They’re there until Thursday. You won’t regret your attendence.

The Fall and Mark E Smith are at their menacing, challenging best right now


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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