(See that video above? That’s the whole set. You don’t often see that on YouTube!)
Why this gig?
I own one Fall album – a compilation of their late 80s singles. I spent much of that period sharing a house with people who were big Fall fans so I picked up some interest in the band through osmosis. But I’ve never seen them live. And I think they’re the kind of musical event that everyone should see once. So when they announced a show in Brixton, I thought it was worth going.
Two support acts. As I arrived, Ye Nuns were already on stage. It seemed like pretty standard pub rock – just played by an all-woman band. I wasn’t particularly impressed. But the second band were far more interesting. They were called Ravioli Me Away and they have an infectious naive charm that I loved. Their album is called The Inevitable Album and I highly recommend it.
The Fall were pretty uncompromising. Before coming on stage they assaulted the audience with several minutes of painful electronic noise. Just as you think you can stand it no longer, the band come on and start playing something that is, at least, recognisable as music. And eventually they are followed by Mark E Smith.
The problem with Fall music is that a lot of it sounds really similar. Particularly in a live setting where the sound was often a little dodgy, it can be hard to tell one song from another. And with 30-odd albums in their back catalogue, only Fall obsessives will recognise every song. But a lot of the audience obviously are Fall obsessives as each new song is welcomed as an old friend. They play nothing from my old compilation and I don’t recognise any of the songs.
Mark E Smith is everything you expect him to be. He seems to have no interest in entertaining the audience. It’s easy to believe that he’s there purely for his own entertainment. He rarely speaks to the audience. Early in the set he shouts at the sound engineers because something in the mix sounds wrong to him. Towards the end of the set he starts fiddling with knobs on the rest of the band’s amplifiers. Of course, it’s very much his band and they just seem to accept that he knows best.
Ultimately I didn’t really enjoy the set. Perhaps it would have been better if I knew more of their material. But, to be honest, it hasn’t left me with much of an urge to investigate them further.
I’m glad I went. I still believe that everyone should see The Fall once. But I won’t be rushing back.
The set-list is on setlist.fm.