Studio 24, Edinburgh
Mark E Smith is the greatest theatre director since Polish enfant terrible Tadeusz Kantor last walked the land. Far from the shambling eccentricities of the aging drunk he’s too often derided as, Smith’s onstage interventions are calculated forays of social engineering. On the first date of a tour to promote new album Your Future our Clutter, such provocative strategies are in evidence from the off.
Video mash-up artist and regular tour support Safi Sniper gets peoples backs up by making a contorted Barbara Streisand sound like X Ray Spex chanteuse Poly Styrene, there’s a set list projected either side of the stage bearing only a scant relation to what’s actually played, and the band are on fire before a black clad Smith makes a typically imperious entrance. About half the album is disposed of without incident, a pigeon-chested Smith a fabled mix of vulnerability and majesty. There’s a thrilling run through album highlight Cowboy George, which sounds like Love’s Seven and Seven Is put through a blender. And then, after thirty five minutes, Smith is gone, wandering off stage destined never to return.
Whether it’s showmanship par excellence or just his dodgy hip isn’t clear as the band attempt to carry on, with keyboardist and Smith spouse Eleni Poulou wrapping her east European vowels around the phrase I’m Not From Bury. An extended instrumental gives way to the unintentional irony of I’ve Been Duped, and that’s that. The band return for a run through garage-psych classic Mr Pharmacist with a reluctant Safi Sniper trading vocals with Poulou, but there’s a sour taste to what should have been an impressive display by a band at their peak.
The Herald, April 26th 2010