Echo & the Bunnymen: 20 October 2009 – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto

Time is definitely on Ian McCulloch’s side. Even at 50 years of age, the front man of 80’s post-punk sensation Echo & The Bunnymen didn’t look a bit out of place on stage with a microphone in hand. In front of a respectable turnout at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, McCulloch addressed the crowd wearing his trademark shades, announcing it was good to be back in Canada. “I like it colder” he stated. “Can you make it colder?”

Accompanied by original Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant, and four other musicians (Stephen Brannan, bass; Gordy Goudie, guitar; Jez Wing, keyboards; and Nick Kilroe, drums) McCulloch opened the first half of the set with old hits, including “The Cutter,” “Dancing Horses,” and “Stormy Weather.” Despite McCulloch’s now limited vocal range, which he credited to “too many interviews, too many ciggies,” they didn’t miss a beat and performed a clean and tight opening set. The majority of the mainly 40-something crowd responded with cheers and polite clapping but remained firmly planted in their seats. Only a handful of select die-hards dared stand and holler their appreciation, which McCulloch responded to with thanks. The final song for act one, “Nothing Lasts Forever”, included a nice infusion of Lou Reed’s “The Wild Side.” It was then off the stage for a 20 minute intermission, time enough for the orchestra to set up for act two, during which they provided beautiful background support for the Bunnymen’s sequential performance of Ocean Rain, the 1984 classic and arguably the best album of their career. The dynamic sound of the string and wind instruments beautifully enhanced the melodies of “Silver” and the full-orchestral version of “Killing Moon” was absolutely haunting. Sergeant’s relentless guitar playing was nothing short of epic and made the encore performances of “All My Colours” and “Lips Like Sugar” the evening’s magnum opus.