There is a T-shirt on sale on the merchandise stand with the slogan ‘1981’ emblazoned across it. Cut into its four numbers are photos of Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant, taken a lifetime and a half go as part of a photo shoot on a beach that year at the time of their second album, ‘Heaven Up Here’.

“Nothing ever lasts forever,” croons McCulloch in the set opener ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, and tonight’s show is as much about moving forwards as it is looking back.
The anthemic Liverpudlian¬band are on the road on the first date of a short UK tour to promote a new studio album ‘The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon’, their first in four years, which will come out in October. It will feature, alongside two new songs, reinterpretations of classics such as ‘The Killing Moon’, ‘The Cutter’ and ‘Lips Like Sugar” with “strings and things.”

The string section, a quartet, are on stage with the Bunnymen, who currently live, as well as McCulloch on vocals and Sergeant on guitar, also consists of an additional guitarist, a bassist, keyboardist and a drummer.

The Bunnymen have never sounded better. The songs have a renewed force and edge, and (perhaps as one friend suggests in the foyer afterwards that it might be because maybe he has finally given up the fags) McCulloch’s voice sounds absolutely honeyed.

The flaw in tonight’s show is the band’s insistence on playing in the virtual dark. Perhaps it is better downstairs where tickets are more expensive but upstairs in the cheap seats its members are shadows on the stage, and it takes a long time to work out whether at the back ofit there are in fact three or four members to the strings section.

Perhaps though this is a plus and the point because, with little to see, it certainly makes one listen to these reinvigorated songs with more depth. With the strings ‘Lips Like Sugar’ sounds more sublime, ‘Bedbugs and Ballyhoo’ further off-kilter and askew, ‘The Cutter’ and ‘Never Enough’ have an added franticness and jaggedness, and ‘The Killing Moon’ and final song ‘Ocean Rain’ are coloured with a new stateliness and grandeur.

A fantastic, enthralling set, which promises much for ‘The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon’.

Photos by Andrew Twambley

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