Academy 1, Manchester
This gig was originally scheduled for April when Lush had just released their (excellent) new EP Blindspot and were about to embark on a victory lap around the US and European festival circuit. The wheels fell off the reunion however a few weeks ago when it was announced that debonair Bass player Phil King had decided to quit with just 3 tour dates left to go. I wasn’t sure if this gig would go ahead but they decided to call in the help of Michael Conroy (of 4AD Labelmates Modern English) and honour the Manchester gig – so by accident rather than design this has become their farewell performance.
A final, boozy shindig in a Camden venue packed to the gunwhales with ex music journalists and faded 90s hellraisers would have been more fitting. Instead Lush end their career in freezing cold barn in Manchester in far too big a venue a long way from the ‘Scene’ that once ‘Celebrated itself’. I don’t spy any former members of Chapterhouse or Th’ Faith Healers or any former NME/Sounds hacks. Miki later quips that her own daughter has skipped her Mum’s last gig in order to catch Savages at Brixton Academy. So although there are lots of people here, we look a bit lost in this big old place. The Ritz would have been perfect (and it was available) but alas the audience are rattling around in here and huddled together for warmth.
Brix Smith and The Extricated provide support – featuring of course the former Mrs Mark E.Smith and the second highest scoring member in The Fall Top Trumps cards- Steve Hanley on Bass. They play lots of Fall songs that The Fall refuse to play like Totally Wired and L.A. and some songs of their own which suggests this project has taken on a life of its own. A closing segue of Hip Priest/New Big Prinz is pretty darn good and as the band file off one by one Steve Hanley and drummer keep the riff going which I’d happily listen to for about an hour.
Lush kick off with ‘De-Luxe’ and battle for a while with the notoriously boomy sound in the Academy. Justin (Elastica drummer who is replacing the late Chris Acland) sounds like he’s in Simple Minds circa ‘Once Upon a Time’. Eventually the soundman manages to rescue the mix and the acoustics start to work in the band’s favour on some of the more dreamy numbers. Michael Conroy does a sterling job on bass, and understandably he is reading from a music stand this being his first and only gig with Lush – Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins once remarked of Emma Anderson’s fiendishly difficult Bass parts “How do you expect anyone to learn this?!”.
Quite a lot of the set is drawn from their 2nd LP ‘Split’ which is an odd choice as it’s perhaps the early EPs and first album that are their lasting legacy but nevertheless nobody could be disappointed with the setlist which is just as well! . There is just one track from their 3rd ‘Lovelife’ (which I must confess I don’t own) – ‘Ladykillers’ which dates from when they were trying to ditch the shoegazing tag and align with Br*tp*p. It’s actually a damn good tune and has actually aged rather well. The highlight of the set, ironically is ‘Out of Control’ from the new EP – which makes me think it’s a shame they are quitting as it suggests they could have made a splendid new LP. Some of the thrashier, early stuff like Downer sounds just great and Emma and Miki belt it out like you would if this was your last ever gig. There are of course two encores, ending with a gorgeous ‘Monochrome’…and that’s it. The End
Cold! And given that this was early 90s music I can’t have been the only person there that was a bit gutted to miss The Orb who were playing next door – it would certainly have been warmer in there.
It made me think..
Nobody retires from Rock these days do they – we shall see but it made me think Emma and Miki are excellent songwriters and boy can they stir up a good old noisy racket – it would be a shame if they put the guitars up in the loft never to be played again.