Monday, 13 May 2013
The Fall at The Trades: review
When my friend discovered that I was going to see Prestwich Post-Punk legends The Fall at Hebden Bridge Trades Club he warned me; "They can be very… challenging, you know" and, as supporting act Bobby Peru forewarned, “Mark has asked us to play for as long as we can, God bless, but we only have one more song”, I was expecting nothing less than a total shambles - but how wrong I was.
Currently a five-piece: Pete Greenway on guitar, Dave Spurr on bass, Elena Poulou on keys, and Keiron Melling on drums with Mark E. Smith providing inimitable vocals. The Fall stepped onto the stage one by one, each picking up and multiplying Greenway’s riff until Smith stumbled onto the set, burping slightly, as he picks up the mic to a rapturous welcome and launches into ‘Shut Up!’
Surprisingly, and for the first half the Smith is totally engaged, laughing and shaking hands with his adoring middle-aged audience, and in the right light, the years fall away revealing an almost youthful vitality and sparks of real genius. This really comes to light during a magnificent ‘Mr. Pharmacist’ and equally on the mark ‘Loadstones’.
It’s hard to say whether Smith recalled all his lyrics, as they have a tendency towards the obtuse at the best of times, but - taking into account a slight rant about BAE Systems – there wasn’t a moment where Smith missed a beat.
Throughout the show, Smith fiddles and faffs with monitors and sound-systems – at one point wrenching Poulou’s mic from her hand mid-lyric.
To their credit, The Fall continue doing their thing with a slight shrug of shoulders, and when he’s not looking, undo the modifications Smith has made. The band is focused and workmanlike, providing a much needed structure to the show, and I will admit I had forgotten how goddam funky The Fall can be.
Perhaps tiring during an hour and a half long set, Smith withdraws to a dark corner at the back of the stage and hides his worryingly tiny frame between an amp and the drum kit. Here he continues to utter his dense and provocative lyrics during ‘Reformation!’ and ‘I’ve Been Duped’, and for the final third of the show, he stares at the painted backdrop, back to the audience until the encore - which is pure, old-fashioned rock and roll.
Smith has stolen a mic from a band member, and throws this and his own into the crowd, who holler through the final moments.
It’s at this point that there is a mini stage-invasion and a well-lubricated woman launches herself towards Smith, but with the accuracy of a sniper. Poulou, who is ready for home in her red duffle coat and overnight bag, launches a bullet of spit and a vehement ‘piss off!’ at the interloper, and the woman retreats. Slowly, so does the band – Smith first, and in a reversal of their appearance, The Fall leave the stage one by one until only my tinnitus remains.