Just last summer, I saw Echo & the Bunnymen with Berlin at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa after not seeing them for 6 years. It was a memorable experience especially with so much of the audience singing along to many of the better known songs. This year, they announced a full US tour which included 3 stops in Southern California! I managed to get tickets to 2 of them including the sold out LA show at the Theater at the Ace Hotel thanks to a friend who was selling a pair. Since I had already planned on attending TwitchCon in San Diego this year, I was unable to attend the Observatory show. The show at Humphrey’s By the Bay was a happy accident when I saw some tickets on StubHub for less than face value.
I took Metrolink from Oceanside to LA Union Station, which showed me how far (and fast) the train goes – about 2 hours with 12 stops in between. Long trip aside, it was one of the easiest concert meet ups I’ve had. My train was earlier than expected, so I stopped by Wetzel’s and got a couple Wetzel’s dogs since they were 2 for $7 (usually $5 each). Shortly before 8, I met up with Theresa who I spotted soon after getting to the front of the station.
We found street parking a couple blocks from the venue and entered before the opening band Ester Drang started. During a brief smoke break, a praying mantis landed on my finger and I freaked out. If anyone was on the tour bus at the time, they may have heard a loud shriek. The security guard at the door who was holding the door was amused and got a picture of the rather large insect. I decided to look it up and according to Reference.com, it is good luck!
In African culture, a praying mantis is a sign of good luck if it lands on a person, and some tribes believe the insect supplies fire and brings the dead to life. African bushmen call the praying mantis “Hottentotsgot,” which means “god.”
According to Buzzle, “It is believed that the praying mantis does bring you good luck whenever it appears, but it won’t last long if you hurt the insect. It is said that if it lands on your arm, you will soon meet an important person, and if it lands on your head, you’ll soon receive honor or recognition.” If it landed on my head, I might have actually hurt it, I don’t think it got hurt when I flung it off my finger onto this post. Well enough, pre-show hijinks. Shortly after the opening band Ester Drang started playing, we went to find out seats in the Upper Balcony. As high up as we were, there were still a lot of seats behind us.
I did kind of like Ester Drang, though I think more so the first night. Actually, I do feel Echo & the Bunnymen were channeling the Doors in LA that night and it sounded (to me, at least) like Ian McCulloch was hitting high notes that he hadn’t hit in years. I also think they may have put in some extra effort since the LA show was sold out and the theater was absolutely gorgeous from an architectural standpoint. I think the building’s interior combined with the lighting (and light show) made that night seem extra special and magical. Most of my photos of Ester Drang focused more on the lighting and the interior of the theater since even a 30x optical zoom can’t get that great closeups from such a distance. Ester Drang were sort a of non-offensive shoegazey band, not bad – but not exactly a show stealer.
I think in the past, Echo & the Bunnymen have chosen opening bands that I loved for years even after they broke up or stopped releasing albums (or maybe that was just The Longpigs). I guess maybe I was just more open to new bands back then. Well, I haven’t gone out of my way to see many bands in recent years, aside from BRMC, of course (but that’s another story for another day). Cushy theater seating and decent view with my super-zoom camera made me excited to get some good video footage and I did! It’s probably a little more stable than my San Diego show videos because most people were not standing until pretty late in the set, and there weren’t nearly as many peoples’ heads blocking my view.
At this point, I’m sure shows are easy for them – aside from the actual traveling and such. My guess with the show at Humphrey’s By the Bay was that the venue being surrounded by water (and outdoors) made it more relaxed and familiar to them. I’m not sure where all the touring band members are from, but Liverpool is right near the water and boats are everywhere like that part of San Diego. I’d say the main differences between LA and San Diego shows were the audience (Saturday night probably brought more LA hipsters and scenesters whereas Humphreys was probably more fans and locals).
Of course, the indoor vs outdoor venues are also like night and day. And even though they may have felt more love in San Diego, they put more effort into the LA show. The setlists were pretty similar too and the only “newer” songs they played were “In the Margin” and “Nothing Lasts Forever” mixed with the Velvet Underground’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” They’ve also regularly segued into “Roadhouse Blues”and “LA Woman” by The Doors. Both shows seem to be more of greatest hits set with a focus on early albums, particularly Crocodiles and Ocean Rain.
Do It Clean
All That Jazz
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
In the Margins
Over the Wall
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues / LA (Detroit) Woman
Bring On the Dancing Horses
The Killing Moon
Nothing Lasts Forever
Lips Like Sugar / Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me
San Diego was similar if not identical, I guess I should start writing the sets down just for these blogs. I like having my own memories of attending the show, so I mostly focused on taking photos and video.