Monday, 10 September 2012

The Fall - Live at The Strand Stockholm, September 02nd

The last time I saw The Fall was way back in 2007 at the Islington Academy, it wasn't what I would call a particularly enjoyable night out. Firstly, it was at my least favourite venue in London, the dreadfully soul-less Islington Academy. Secondly, we had to endure some awful wind-up merchant posing as a DJ, Safi Sniper, who stretched the crowd's patience to breaking point. I had never experienced any violence or aggression at a Fall gig before, well not off the stage at least, but the air was filled with screams of abusive language and flying beer glasses. Of course, I could imagine Mark E Smith sitting backstage having a good old chuckle at this and by the time The Fall took to the stage, the audience were primed and ready for anything. I was there with a friend from Sweden who certainly added a few more slang words to his English vocabulary. So, fast forward to the present, I was over in Stockholm when the same friend suggested we go along to see The Fall, I was in two minds. I mean don't get me wrong, The Fall were amazing when they did eventually take the stage that night back in 2007, but I was not in any great rush to see them again. With some trepidation I asked my mate, "That Safi Sniper isn't supporting is he...?". Laughing, he replied, "Oh, the effing get off the stage you w*nker Safi Sniper, you mean? No, there's no support and the band are due on stage at 8:30 I think". Now, that sounded more like it, life's too short for enduring shite support bands, so I agreed.

The Strand is a great venue, there's a good atmosphere and a sizeable audience, I can pick out a lot of English voices too so things are looking promising for a great show. The band take the stage, but although the keyboard is set up there's no Elena which is a bit strange. However, they go ahead and kick off with a brand new number that has a catchy guitar riff called "Defurbished". Mark E Smith appears and looks in pretty good shape, the stabbing, stop-start guitar leaves the drums to carry things, it's an excellent song. Still no Elena though, and there's no explanation on her whereabouts at all during the course of the gig. Then it's into their cracking take on The Sonics' garage rock classic "Strychnine". This is followed by "Nate Will Not Return" and then the ominous bass line of "Chino". In fact tonight, it's the bass of Dave Spurr that is the star of the show, I haven't felt such a punch in the guts sound since experiencing Scott Firth's crushing bass at Public Image Ltd's recent gigs. Talking of bass, next it's another stunning riff, "Systematic Abuse" from the "Reformation Post TLC" album. Tonight, The Fall sound is a pretty relentless assault, there is not much room for subtlety but it is certainly hypnotic and effective.

The band were in a tight groove and things were going well, but half way through "Systematic Abuse" Smith wanders off backstage leaving the band to continue without him. They go straight into "Cowboy George" with its rolling Rawhide style drums. Smith appears on stage again and continues singing, he deliberately steps on guitarist Peter Greenaway's effects pedals and approaches his amp, turning up the levels so there's a squall of feedback. He then fiddles with the vacant keyboard and they crash into a vicious "Bury", the rockabilly riff of oldie "Container Drivers" is well received by the crowd but during "Psykick Dancehall", Smith kicks over one of drummer Keiron Melling's cymbal stands and he's off again. There's a brief flurry and battle with the curtains that wouldn't have been out of place on the Morecambe & Wise Show, and he disappears backstage. The band finish and depart to loud calls for an encore and I am sure I can hear Smith's disembodied voice through the PA say "I'm not going back out there again". He doesn't, but the band do, the three musicians re-appear and we get a red-hot run through of "Hot Cake" then into the classic "Mr. Pharmacist", all the while Smith is singing from somewhere backstage.

The band depart again, there's a bit of a wait but they come back, spurred by the persistent calls for an encore, for "Wolf Kidult Man", then my favourite Fall track "Sparta FC", which certainly misses Elena's backing vocals. I don't really know what happened to upset Smith, some people reckon it was the laid back Stockholm crowd, but to me the reaction was positive throughout, and the calls for encores went on long after the house lights went up. The fact that they came back for two encores probably lays to rest that rumour. Was it something to do with Elena? Maybe Smith hurt himself trying to get backstage? You could certainly hear him saying  "thank you from the cripple behind the stage" as  "Sparta" drew to a close. Whatever the reasons, I suppose a straight forward, incident-free Fall gig would have probably been a bit of a disappointment!  Here's a video of "Container Drivers" - All photos and video copyright Steve Worrall 2012.


  1. I think the trouble with getting the keyobard working might've bothered M.E.S., but mostly it was Fall business as usual. Gotta love The Fall!

  2. Yes, true they couldn't seem to find the "on" switch! Shame Elena was not there though.