Opening for a band as iconic and indefinable as The Fall could be considered a rather daunting and unenviable task as support acts can often sound like a pale imitation of the headliners. Japanese psychedelic sludge rockers Bo Ningen are a brave, if not unlikely, choice for the night.
Unfazed by a sold out venue packed full of soaking wet impatient Fall fans, Bo Ningen put on a show worthy of the full entrance fee. Their krautrock-esque tight rhythm section and warbling melodies at times sounded as alien as anything in The Fall’s back catalogue but at the same time stood worlds apart. They concluded their set with a triumphant crash ending that saw frontman/bassist/singer Taigen Kawabe stood on the drum-kit in a messianic pose half lost in a thick fog of dry ice. We couldn’t help wondering what the grumpy MES waiting backstage would have made of such flamboyant showmanship.
The Fall took to the stage without ceremony to a large cheer before launching into ‘Mister Rode’ from the 2013 EP ‘The Remainderer’, closely followed by the thumping and unforgiving snare drum assault of ‘Cowboy George’ from 2010 album ‘Your Future Our Clutter’.
Several new songs peppered the set and went down particularly well such as the unusual ‘Brillo Fillo’ and ‘Fol de Rol’. However, only the guitar accompanied ‘9 Out Of 10’ which seemed to score far lower with the crowd and felt like a brick wall. It’s a new song, almost certainly still under construction but it fell unusually flat.
‘Fall Sound’ from 2007’s ‘Reformation Post TLC’ made a welcome return but the set arguably peaked with ‘Auto-Chip 14-15’ from 2015’s ‘Sub-Lingual Tablet’. The slow build-ups, simple and resurfacing guitar riff and hypnotic repetition were met by MES pondering repeatedly: “How bad are English musicians?” It had the crowd swelling back and forth, as did ‘Quit iPhone’ which saw him throw his microphone into the crowd for some audience participation. (And yes, of course we did.)
The elephant in the room was of course the departure of Elena Poulou whose staccato keyboard lines had become as much part of the sound as MES’ never-ending hissing. The usually keyboard-heavy ‘Dedication Not Medication’ translated well despite her absence, largely due to some inventive guitar work to cover the gaps. There was a keyboard on stage but MES’ indifferent efforts at playing it seldom amounted to very much. His penchant for ‘live mixing’ (i.e. fiddling with and turning off people’s amps) seemed subdued tonight too. An unexpected, perhaps largely unnoticed, addition to the band was a second drummer tucked away in the corner of the stage, not unusual for The Fall but it seemed to add little to the sound coming from the stage.
With the exception of ‘Mr Pharmacist’ (originally covered in 1986) all of tonight’s songs are from records made in the last ten years which is a sign of a band looking forwards. With the new album ‘New Facts Emerge’ expected to drop any time soon on Cherry Red Records as well as the band being in great form (no tantrums tonight), there is a lot for Fall fans to be excited about right now.
Concorde2, Sunday 29th January 2017
Words by Matt Upchuck
Photos by Jon Southcoasting