When I heard that Echo & The Bunnymen would be performing at The Phoenix in Toronto, I was raring to go. A big fan of the band since the ‘80s, I never dreamed I’d get to see them perform live—let alone twice, in six months. The first show was back in October, when they played with full orchestral accompaniment at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The audience was treated to plush comfy seats and a mid-show intermission during which bar staff in formal attire served beer and cocktails.
Predictably, the setting at The Phoenix was first’s antithesis: a tightly-packed crowd crammed into a small(ish) venue, strobes flahsing, and noisy bars hugging the stage. In other words, a proper rock venue. Fashionably late, Ian McCulloch appeared on stage with his trade mark cigarette blazing while Will Sergeant assumed his shoegaze stance on guitar. The Bunnymen delighted fans with a steady stream of tunes, pausing between songs only momentarily for McCulloch to mutter indecipherable comments into his mic. Judging by the laughter and applause, some fans seemed to comprehend what he said, or at least pretended to. Highlights included fan-favorites “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo”, “Killing Moon”, and “Bring On The Dancing Horses”. Overall the band played a much more aggressive and much tighter set than the Queen Elizabeth show, which may be a reflection of their near constant touring of late, but they also seemed to feed off the energy of the cheering fans. A fantastic extended version of “Lips Like Sugar” during their second encore closed out the night.
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