Most Fall fans are impervious to the group’s troubled history – forgiving the occasional disappointing gig or hit-or-miss output, while others have become so disillusioned by the continuous shift in personnel over time, they remain somewhat unconvinced by the current line-up, not bothering as much with new material and live shows as a result.
But those who haven’t seen the current incarnation of the group, which since 2013 has also been the longest-serving line-up, allowing for the recent addition of Daren Garratt as an additional live drummer, are simply missing out. However historically troubled Mark E Smith’s camp once was, these days they seem like a perfectly tight collective, as evidenced here tonight at The Fall’s third appearance at The Brudenell Social Club, a venue that has become a second home to them, no doubt because of its fittingly understated exterior. As with every gig they’ve played here, Mark E Smith appears more complacent than usual.
The bulk of the material played tonight is from more recent output; a noticeable deviation from the usual rockabilly sound that dominates most of their gigs, with the likes of ’Pharmacist’, ‘Strychnine’ and ‘White Lightening’ distinctly amiss. It’s a welcomed change, though, because it’s affirmation of The Fall’s contempt for nostalgia, and their tendency to focus on the present rather than the past. ‘Remainderer’ sounds particularly prevailing: its customary repetition heightened by Garratt and Melling’s pounding, dualistic drumming. The crowd are equally pleased, with the stage being invaded by an audience member planting a kiss on Dave, whose driving, propulsive bass playing is typically on point.
It’s worth noting that Elena is suffering from a poorly foot tonight– but apart from her not returning for the encore, there is little evidence of it affecting her ability to play, although her synth lacks the usual discord, purportedly down to the sound not being as loud as last time.
There was a time when MES’ unpredictable on-stage antics was a habitual, almost certain occurrence, whereas now there’s a small degree of abstinence from Smith despite remaining an imposing presence, focusing on the crowd here with a locked, persistent glare. There are no failings, no stopping and starting, no instrumental fiddling or interjections. But Smith still sporadically wanders off, spending the first half of ‘Hittie’ offstage, with his barely-audible snarl emitting from backstage. The set does seem hurried, however – with Elena, Dave, Pete, Kieron and newest recruit Daren Garratt playing intently, heads down, and seemingly faster than usual. So much so that the dissonant, aptly seasonal ‘No Xmas For John Quays’ they conclude with was barely recognisable, albeit beautifully messy. Same time next year, please.
Gig date: November 28