Mar 26th, 2008 by Donagh
The Fall played in the Tripod in Dublin back on the 16th of March, but I haven’t had a chance to give my impressions of it until now. Perhaps the reason for delaying is because I knew that plenty of Irish Fall fans would get there first, but they’d probably be able to post pictures, video clips and a scan of the original set list before St. Patrick’s Day dawned. And so it was. I’ve been a Fall fan for years, but never nerdy enough for that level of commitment.
A couple of days before the Dublin gig I, Ludicrous (of A Pop Fan’s Dream (Sunday Lunch With The Geldofs) fame) were supposed to play support to The Fall at London’s Astoria, but were sacked because of something David Rippingale said about Smith on his Guardian Blog. It might have been the comment that Smith didn’t like the birthday present they got him.
Here’s a sample of what they would have been like if they’d played Dublin. Taken from their Liverpool gig, the song is about the career of Ruby Wax.
The years haven’t dimmed their ironic fascination with celebrities.
Instead the Dublin audience was treated to a semi hip-hop act from Manchester called The Feral Man. I think these guys were always scheduled to play, but it would have been more entertaining seeing I, Ludicrous rather than a rehash of Audioslave.
Prior to The Fall coming on though the lights on stage dimmed and we heard the recorded sound of Mark E. Smith reading some spoken word material. The first one was the lyrics to Idiot Joy Showland and they’re still some of the best written by Smith:
Freddie and the Dreamers, come on up
Hey you imitators, come on up
Hey little singer, come on up
Show us your house and
Show us your cock
The working class has been shafted
So what the f**k you sneering at?
Your prerogative in life it seems
Is living out an ad man’s dream
Idiot Joy Showland
The sharp, unsentimental attitude behind the lyric ‘Your prerogative in life it seems is living out an ad man’s dream’ can be seen glinting in the pretty funny Loaded interview from
19891997 in which Smith is reported to have stubbed his ciggy out in the journalists face before the interview even started.
MES: (Ranting) Yeah, fuckin’ look at you, you don’t wanna do any work, you’re not interested in anything! See, you’re just like every fuckin’ fat-arsed middle-management cunt in Britain, aren’t you? You just come out to work to get away from the wife. You’re not interested in creating anything, and that’s why the country’s on it’s back, PALLY!
Ah, bless him.
The spoken word tracks were followed immediately by the band coming on stage and starting Is This New from the new, yet to be released album. I hadn’t heard it before, but it seemed like a lot of the more recent tracks. The band was extremely tight, almost too tight in fact and they chugged through the track with the repetitive speed of a steam hammer, and the whole gig carried on in this way – and the majority of the audience seemed to be into it. After a minute though, Smith arrived on stage, brown leather jacket, silver grey shirt and started things rolling. THIS IS THE FALL etc.
The next song, Wings, completely passed me by, merging with the previous track in its rapidly played, rhythmic style. According to the posters on the Fall forum Wolf Kidult Man was next on the list and I’m grateful to whoever put this version from the Astoria gig in London to be able to listen to it again.
The above sample provides more detail of the atmosphere of the gig than I can. However, from the beginning it seemed that Smith was fairly pissed – nothing new there. As he moved about the stage he looked like one of those old geezers in a pub, who in their effort to make it to the loo, lurch suddenly for one bar stool to another to keep their balance. I’ve seen The Fall a good few times now, and its always different, and always the same. There was no indication that he’d be able to duck a flying bottle adroitly as I saw him do at a London gig, but everything else is still in place. He still moved around the stage, consulting his trademark lyrics sheets, fiddling (almost ritualistically) with the nobs on the amps at the back of the stage, having enormous difficulty with the mike stands and, typically dropping one on the drum kit, and interfering with wife and keyboardist Elenor Poulou’s’s playing (pictured). This latter ‘disruption’ of Poulou’s performance was received by her in matter of fact way. She wasn’t annoyed – I’m not even sure if this is his intention – she just stood back with her arms dropped by her side as Smith mauled the keyboard.
The fans on the Fall forum thought this was an excellent performance, but for me it seemed business as usual – nothing startling, but everything relying on the speed and rockabilly tightness of the tracks – the latest Fall sound. There is no doubt that the Fall at the moment sounds great (the recent Heads Roll is still a brilliant album), and the band are very disciplined with the only wavering coming from Smith himself as the mike stands got the better of him at one point, but there was very little variety through the relatively short gig. Smith has always railed against bands using session musicians and bragged in the past how some of the band can’t even tune their guitars. I’d always thought that the reason he tried to piss off band members on stage was to bring something else out in the live performance, but this was just too clean – but maybe that’s just me.
The best songs was Blindness at the end. The audience was the usual mix of long time Fall fans – usually men in their 40s and some new kids. Considering how long the Fall have been going and how brilliant (and influential: Your mystic jump suits cannot hide/Your competitive plagiarism) the music of the Fall is, this is not a bad situation for the 50 Year Old Man.
The following clip is from Frank Skinner’s interview with Smith for the Culture show in which Smith offers Skinner one of his four sisters for his bride.
Image of the Dublin gig from Room Temperature’s Flickr account.