Skip to main content

The Fall

HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
Thurday November 3rd 2011

The moustached man from the local tattoo parlour onstage is giving it
loads. His whine-perfect karaoke impression of Mark E Smith has the
advantage of having the most crack-shot surf-garage band around backing
him, who, for the previous half-hour, have been proving just how good
they are with a series work-outs made necessary by the prolonged
absence of their vocalist, conductor, arranger, director, gaffer and
guru.

It all started so well, with Smith practically bounding on stage on the
dot of 9pm and within a minute of the band striking up the
hundred-mile an hour chug of the forebodingly titled Nate Will Not
Return, a highlight from the new Ersatz G.B. album. Guitarist Tim
Presley from the 2006 American Fall line-up has rejoined the fold while
his replacement Pete Greenway takes time out on 'maternity leave', and
Presley's twitch-hipped boyish demeanour adds extra urgency to an
already relentless fuzz.

It's even better on a glorious Strychnine, with a pigeon-chested Smith
looking imperious as ever. Then, microphone in hand, the
fifty-something demagogue takes what looks like one of his regular
tours around the stage to mess things up. Instead, he wanders offstage,
delivering his vocals and other noises off from the wings, the stairs
or who knows where. The band power on through a surprising revisitation
of 1979's Printhead. Smith eventually slopes back on, returns the mic
to its stand, then wanders back off again. Keyboardist and
long-suffering Smith spouse Eleni Poulou attempts to fill the gap on an
even more tellingly named I've Been Duped. Musically, the band are
invincible, but without anyone to crack the whip they soon run out of
steam, and finish up.

Which is when things really get interesting. Poulou explains something
about Smith having wounded feet, only to be heckled. “Are you a
doctor?” is her retort. The band return to play a couple of
instrumentals, during which the tattoo parlour boy somehow manages to
scramble his way onstage and grabs the mic. If his well-studied
Smithian repartee at first seems like a put-up job, no matter, because
Poulou cracks a smile for the first time tonight, egging the boy on.
While he's eventually led off by security, his spontaneous turn has
nevertheless turned confusion and frustration into triumph. Something
Smith capitalises on when he returns, Lazarus-like and in
stockinged-feet, for a bouncing Mr Pharmacist. Then, with an
obliviously cheery wave, he's off, the whole experience over and done
with in an hour exactly.

Whether calculated social engineer and maestro-like orchestrator of
spectacle on a par with avant-garde Polish theatre director Tadeusz
Kantor, or self-destructive, over-the-hill fuck-up, Mark E Smith
remains the ultimate show-man. He understands exactly how to press his
audience's buttons, and they love him all the more for it. Tonight,
Matthew, with the tattoo parlour man at the vanguard, we were all The
Fall.

Uncommissioned, unsolicited and unpublished, November 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…