Review: The Fall, predictably unpredictable at Electric Brixton

Our writer Richard Pearmain reviews last night’s Fall gig at Electric Brixton and finds Mark E Smith behaving himself.

Mark E Smith with The Fall at Electric Brixton
Mark E Smith with The Fall at Electric Brixton. Photo by Richard Pearmain

One thing you can always count on with Fall gigs is that they are predictable in their unpredictability. Regardless of how the band perform, or how temperamental Mark E Smith is on that particular night, it’s never a dull moment. And so to a Friday night at Electric Brixton, where they were kicking off a tour to support the upcoming Sub-Lingual Tablet LP (their 31st, if anyone is still counting).

The venue was steadily filling up with the faithful when I got there – a real mix of long term fans who’d put in the years and a much younger crowd of converts. I just caught the end of post-punk troubadours Wet Dog’s slot, who were followed by the more traditional indie guitar musings of Dundee band Vladimir. The Fall were scheduled to start at 10pm, so we waited… and we waited…. and we waited. Just before 10.30, the band came on and launched into My Door Is Never (from 2007’s Reformation Post TLC), with Mark E Smith ambling on stage shortly afterwards.

Photo by Richard Pearmain
Photo by Richard Pearmain

The night was, as you’d expect, heavy on the new tracks, with a standout being the motorik driven Auto Chip 2014-2016 – a krautrock behemoth that steamed through the middle of the set. Smith was up to his usual antics throughout – fiddling with the settings on guitarist Pete Greenway’s and bassist Dave Spurr’s amps, muscling in on Eleni Poulou’s synth and handing vocal duties to new second drummer Daren Garratt before wandering off stage. One notable difference, though, was the absence from the set list of those redoubtable garage covers, Mr Pharmacist and Strychnine, which always usually crop up at some point during a Fall gig.

We appeared to be heading towards a new record in short Fall sets as the clock hit 11, before the band came out for the first of what turned out to be two encores – a rampant version of Bury which got the mosh pit going, followed unexpectedly by (as people had started to head out the doors) a thunderous run through of Theme From Sparta FC.

There was an optimistic wait in case the Fall popped back out (which has been known, even when the venue’s lights had come up), but it soon became pretty apparent that that, ladies and gentlemen, was all you were getting tonight.

So, another Fall gig. As they go, it was a pretty good night, it ticked all the usual Fall gig boxes, and MES was largely behaving himself. To quote the old John Peel adage, “they are always different, they are always the same.”

Written by Richard Pearmain