The Fall - The Arches, Glasgow, 30 April 2009 (3 stars)

The Fall

Photo: Bryn Evans

Undoubtedly the biggest band on Thursday’s Hinterland bill, The Fall were still an odd choice to be following such a predominantly youthful and contemporary bunch of artists as had seen the evening through. And that’s even taking into account Mark E Smith and Co’s recent and most unexpected signing to Domino Records, making them labelmates of your Franz Ferdinands and Arctic Monkeys.

Whatever, this wasn’t the kind of show which will necessarily endear these old-timers to the young ‘uns, although that’s probably not the intention of anyone involved and certainly not something you’d expect Smith to give a toss about. It’s just that, having seen Copy Haho kick off a fiery, exciting set in the next Arch along, this brilliant but confounding band seemed to be going through the motions in comparison.

As usual, Smith’s wife and the band’s keyboard player Elena Poulou seemed to be quietly gluing things together where they threatened to come unstuck. She yells backing vocals and stabs at her keys, while the sometimes literally rattling bass hid the rest of the band’s perceived awkwardness at how things were playing out.

On the mend from a broken hip, Smith is out of the wheelchair, but takes the opportunity where needed to amble off for a seat at the side. His seat, though, was behind a huge speaker, and sometimes he’d be in it for a song and longer; which led to the odd experience of a disembodied voice fronting the band for extended periods.

Still, as the song goes, he’s ‘a fifty year old man’, and it sounds like a badge of honour rather than an excuse when he sings it. What have Fall gigs and Star Trek films got in common? Every other one’s a stinker. In which case, this lot’ll be back to full power next time.

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