Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Fall Live...Edinburgh 2011

Mark E Smith came on like a comparative lion, straight up to the microphone at the front of the stage, on time and in the mood it seemed.  Sober(ish), it seemed, and as we stood there with big grins on our faces, Scott even suggested he'd stayed unpissed because he loved Edinburgh more than other cities (he lived here for years and wrote the quite lovely 'Edinburgh Man' for the excellent 'Extricate' album a decade or so ago).

Fat chance.

He survived coupe of songs before he started playing with the sound levels of the guitarist's amp, and one more song before he disappeared off stage.  None of the four tracks he sang was exactly a classic, it's true, and the band aren't as tight as you might have hoped, with the guitarist (I've given up bothering to learn the names of Fall band members) particularly shaky.  But muddy is the default sound for the Fall live, so that was no worry.  But no Smith means no Fall really.

And for the fifteen minutes or so which remained of the gig, he was about as visible as a maned wolf at Edinburgh Zoo on a rainy day. 

Spot the Smith!

One minute he was there, twisted and hunched, like the Man from Another Place in Twin Peaks, Brick Heck from The Middle or James Forrest of Celtic.

Mark E Smith in a red suit,
looking for an audience
Smith singing 'Rowche Rumble'
Smith playing for boyhood heroes, Celtic
Then he was gone, off stage to bark his vocals from the dressing room, presumably while thudding back a bottle of vodka, because when he re-appeared he was visibly utterly steaming.  Couple of barked lines, jacket shrugged off and onto the floor, and some comedy drunken pointing, Emo Phillips-style, and he was off again, not to be seen again during the remainder of the body of the gig.  The band played a couple of tracks with keyboard player Eleni (aka Mrs Mark E Smith) singing painfully through a mic set up for backing vocals, then an instrumental, then they walked off to a chorus of boos and plastic beer glasses.  Eleni did briefly re-appear to lambast the crowd - didn't we know that Mark was too pissed to stand?  What did we want from him?

How about a tiny little bit of professionalism?  To stay sober when he's doing his job?  Not to rake in the best part of ten grand for less than a quarter of an hour's work?  To remember that he was the same guy who stopped the band on a live track from Totale's Turns because they weren't playing well enough?

IN fairness, though, I have to admit the shambles wasn't entirely unexpected.  I've seen MES in action twice in the last couple of years and he's been pissed and incapable both times.  But it's like doing the lottery - you buy a ticket hoping that this'll be the night.  Talking to a couple of guys outside afterwards, they remembered seeing the Fall being brilliant and then utterly shambolic state in the space of a couple of weeks in the early 80s.  At least they were a bit pissed off at Smith's showing tonight - unlike the people who popped up on Twitter saying what a great gig it was.  That's just pathetic: middle aged men turning up for the freakshow, not the music, pandering to Smith's alcoholism and infantile behaviour, swapping war stories of really shit performances they've seen him give, wallowing in being fans of the shittest live band in the world.

Ah well, Smith'll be dead soon enough if he continues like this, and then they can boast about being fans of what used to be the world's shittest live band...

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