WITH their classic 1984 album Ocean Rain, Echo & the Bunnymen set a benchmark for symphonic pop among their post-punk peers, justification alone for embellishing old and new material with “strings and things” on The Stars, The Oceans and the Moon tour.
However, there were teething problems on this opening date, not least the losing battle by the string quartet when faced with a rock band intent on powering through regardless.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh **
Supercool frontman Ian McCulloch could not sail by on charisma alone and was frequently out of tune – hardly surprising given the punishing sound mix.
Meanwhile, the band appeared to have established a perimeter at a safe distance from their capricious singer, with guitarist Will Sergeant in his own rarefied sound world – a stiff arrangement which was reflected in the time it took to warm up the performance.
By the time they hit a run of quality favourites, the audience were sufficiently lubricated to simply celebrate the songs that soundtracked their 1980s. Ironically, the synthesized strings on the shimmering Bring On The Dancing Horses drowned out the actual strings, while McCulloch’s ragged vocals on Never Stop bellowed over an otherwise nimble arrangement.
But a subtle and stripped back Seven Seas and a regal encore of Ocean Rain gave a tantalising glimpse of what could be if the band fully embraced the idea of a string-led gig rather than deliver a compromise where the electric instruments were always going to win out.