Echo & The Bunnymen: Live In Liverpool

Sometimes it's OK to settle for second best. Echo and the Bunnymen were not the U.K.'s best indie band of the Eighties (see the Smiths); they were not the most successful overseas (see the Cure), and they were certainly not their hometown's favorite sons (see the Beatles). In 1997, after a decade-long break, the above presumably stopped bothering Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant enough to realize that there's nothing wrong with being a darn good band. Recorded over two nights last summer, Live in Liverpool is Echo's triumphant return to the city where they formed twenty-five years earlier, and its seventeen tracks showcase the many treasures they've amassed during their many travels. From Sergeant's ringing "we can name that tune in two notes" riff in "Rescue" to McCulloch's whisper-to-a-scream crooning in "Ocean Rain," Live in Liverpool represents all the edgy and eerie that is Echo and the Bunnymen. And, while somewhat gentler then their older brothers, the band's post-hiatus representatives (especially "Buried Alive" and "King of Kings") are worthy set mates for "The Cutter" and "Over the Wall." As always, McCulloch is a man of few words, offering few intelligible words besides his greeting of "Hello . . . Cheers" — and age and cigarettes have clipped a few notes from the top his vocal range (the chorus of "Lips Like Sugar" is particularly strained, and, after hearing the octave-adjusted "Bring on the Dancing Horses" last year, I'm not surprised by its absence). But Live in Liverpool is proof that, amidst all the Beatlemania of 2001, Liverpool was right to devote a couple nights to somebody else.