Ian McCulloch doesn’t look happy. Stuck behind his permanent uniform of cigarette and sunglasses, he puffs away, sulkily crouched below the mike. Between songs he mutters incoherently about the sound system, asking "Can you turn down the mike?" the moment a song ("Scissors In The Sand," from their new album) finishes, and then a slightly, clearer "Thank you." Whether the gratitude is directed at the audience or the sound guy is anyone's guess.
How he finds the time or the effort between these moments of gloomy rock stardom to reach soaring heights of shimmering pop is a mystery. His distinctive voice—made of piercing yelps and deep crooning—leads the band’s beautiful chorus of echoing guitars in an unaged and glorious wall of sound.
And it's not just the sound that hasn't aged. Remarkably, through years of wear and tear from smoking, drinking, deaths (drummer Pete de Freitas died in 1989) and general rock 'n' roll shenanigans, McCulloch’s face and voice are just like when the group played their first gig at Liverpool's Eric's in 1978. Same goes for guitarist Will Sergeant, who keeps the meandering, grandiose licks a-coming.
Playing only three songs from new album Siberia ("Stormy Weather," "Scissors In The Sand" and "In The Margins" – all of which stir up a fury with the great anthem-pounding sound Echo are known for), the band ploughed through classics "Bring On The Dancing Horses," "The Killing Moon," "The Cutter" and "Lips Like Sugar," mixing them in seamlessly with the recent additions that it became one truly great Greatest Hits list.
Although slightly impersonal, the band's sound is still dark, yet enlightening; thrilling, yet modest; chaotic, yet militantly organized. Music would be a lot less exciting without Echo and the Bunnymen.