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The Fall

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
4 stars
After 30 brilliantly inconsistent years, Mark E Smith and The Fall make more sense than ever. Nowhere is that clearer than in the video mash-ups of iconic maestros James Brown, Pavarotti and Vegas-era Elvis which precedes both shows of this two-night stint, featuring the young American players Smith drafted in after the previous incumbents jumped ship. Just as VJ Safi Sniper distorts such legends, Smith puts a new twist on showbiz. Like Brown, Smith isn’t fronting a band anymore, but is ringmaster of an old-time revue, only too willing to exploit his own shtick.

So the endless one-note bass loop intro and the band’s heads-down no-nonsense instrumental riffing prior to Smith’s Nero-like entrance are all intact. As is Smith’s furtive twiddling with sound levels, hiding of microphones and leaning on his wife Elenor’s keyboards. She remains fantastically diffident as, infant-like, Smith explores the stage having seemingly just discovered the rudimentary properties of making a din.

What this demonstrates on relentless workouts of songs fleshed out with a second bassist since appearing on the recent Reformation Post TLC album, is an innate understanding of stripped-down garage rock and performative tension. While a cover of Frank Zappa’s Hungry Freaks, Daddy confirms this, beneath it all, Smith’s free-associative narratives are as self-referential as a performance artist constructed in a working man’s club.

While the second night’s longer show is less palpably tense than the first, both see Elenor take lead vocal on The Wright Stuff, which sounds like The Flying Lizards doing a plummy rewrite of The Monster Mash. Even the hardest working man in showbiz, it seems, needs to take a back seat occasionally.

The Herald, March 15th 2007

ends

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