Jamie Bowman
13:37 23rd September 2003

It's like a Scouse version of Friends Reunited tonight. Everywhere you look the great and the good of Liverpool's rock scene mingle about in an incestuous pool of self-congratulation. They're here ostensibly to see the self styled King of Cool himself Ian MacCulloch, but there's interest in Kealer too who seem to have picked up two ghosts of Liverpool past themselves in the guise of Keith O'Neil (former drummer with Cast) and Martin Campbell (bassman for just about everyone). With a rhythm section of such quality Kealer should be a relishing prospect, but they do little to impress the partisan home crowd. Lead by a sweaty yob name of Jason Kelly they have all the grace and potency of Emile Heskey with a hamstring. The music itself is a clumsy attempt to do Manc-Epic and with songs called things like 'Northern Sky' they are almost beyond parody. New single 'Superman' features the poetic first line "I am a souped-up, southern fried, cock of the Mancs", but in all honesty only one of these words rings true. A sad waste of talent.

MacCullochThe stage is set then for our erstwhile local hero to pull us from this well of averageness and show a hungry audience that he is as valid now as he was when surrounded by his assorted Bunnymen. Initial signs are good: the voice still sounds magnificent and the cut of his suit and the way he smokes a Marlboro red are still things to admire. However, as song after song drifts by from new album 'Sideling' even these qualities can do little to dispel the feeling that something is missing. Songs like 'High Wires' (with it's Velvets pinching chorus of "some kinda love") and 'Playgrounds and City Parks' are all nice in a rather pedestrian way, but you can't help thinking they'd be greatly improved by a startlingly psychedelic riff from Will Sergent or a truly out there vocal surprise from Mac himself.

Of course the man does his best as he struts around the stage swapping digs with hecklers, but the crowd only really swoon when he plays 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever' and by then you've begun to dream of those far off crystal days a little too fondly. A beautifully romantic 'Killing Moon' follows in the encore, fresh from it's scene stealing appearance in 'Donnie Darko' but then Mac spoils it again by living out his Lou Reed fetish a little too publicly with a rather embarrassing stab at 'Walk On The Wild Side'. Mac seems to be treading water with performances like this as if he's warming up for the tuxedo and stool residency at one of Albert Dock's poncified wine bars. It seems that the camo and trench coat of yore has well and truly been confined to the back of the wardrobe and if it has then perhaps the Mac should be too.

By Jamie Bowman :: jamie@gigwise.com
Photos by Sean Bickerton :: sean.bickerton@gigwise.com

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