There’s a cancer of expensive state-of-the-art rock lighting growing on the ceiling above the stage. Its various arms and lenses blink and twist randomly, multiplying before our eyes. Under the lights a man in a jacket is stood upright, chest slightly puffed out and mewling like he’s just had a shot of helium. While eating a marshmallow. Occasionally a sentence is audible- “I yeeam what you seeay I yeeam”.

If Mark E. Smith didn’t exist he’d have to be invented - probably by the Home Office on some cultural/educational initiative to explain the concept of surly Northerners to incoming asylum seekers.

He wanders around the stage and inspects the various musicians like a terrifying sergeant major, randomly turning knobs on the amps and doing some comical on-stage mixing. The musicians do not flinch. They’re aware of the punishment. Meanwhile two drummers flail away at the back powering this invisible galleon through krautrock tight garage grooves.

‘Pledge’ is a menacing glam stomp, reminiscent of Roxy Music’s ‘The In Crowd’ and casting Mark as the bastard disinherited brother while Bryan got all of the money.. but none of the charm. ‘Mister Rode’ could be the Doors on steroids – mainly thanks to Elena Poulou’s keyboard but maybe also because there might be more in common with both lead singers than at first meets the eye. Certainly it’s hard to think of too many other front men that so totally own the stage and often by doing little more than standing on it.

The band tear through a cover of the Sonics' ‘Strychnine’. You knew all along this gig was going to get messy. It was just a question of when as Mark tightropes along the edge of some imaginary sixth floor balcony. He’s tried singing through every single mic on the stage, sometimes two or three at once and now he’s out of sight round the back.. still spitting out the words. You imagine he’s probably just gone for a pee.

A mic with stand still attached disappears into the moshpit. Bemused bouncers, more used to guarding a footballer’s haircut look worried and then confused by the unwieldy item...“Oh Christ, it bends in the middle”. The house lights are up and some people think it’s all over (sorry), but this doesn’t stop the band re-appearing and treating us to a searing ‘Theme from Sparta FC’.

Then he’s gone, his crack squad disappearing down the tunnel. Seconds later he reappears half way up the terrace. The crowd roar as he picks up the cup with both hands and thrusts it skywards. He lowers it back down, discards the lid and throws up into it.

Final score: The Fall 3 South-West London 0.

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Commenting On: Under the Bridge, London, 10/6/2014 - Fall

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