The Fall / The Talk
Stubb's Barbecue; Austin, TX

[05-02-06]

The
Fall have so much material that the small chunk I own seems to be strewn all
over my apartment. As a result, when I returned home from The Fall show, my
roomie was shocked that I hadn't been fanatically talking up the fact that I
was going to see this band whose merchandise he has been forced to look at all
year. My only explanation was that I didn't know what to expect. Although I'd
consider myself a pretty big fan and I'd heard that they could be brilliant,
it would be more likely that they would be in shambles. Nonetheless, I had
been nervously looking forward to my first experience with a band that I
consider no less than legendary.

The show was in downtown Austin near where I currently work, so I was able to
spend a leisurely evening out before heading over to the venue. I convinced a
friend whom I'd turned onto the band via the albums Hex Enduction Hour
and Levitate to join me but made it clear that I couldn't vouch for a
stellar performance. The band played at Stubb's, the venue that has recently
housed LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, and The Arcade Fire. The catch? The Fall
were playing the inside bar, which houses a fraction of the amount of people
the main stage does. That didn't deter The Fall, though; they still charged as
much or more than those bands.

Well, we missed the first band, The Talk, but arrived in time to see a
videographer "open." He was actually pretty great, manipulating images and
sound of Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Barbara Streisand, and Michael Jackson with
thoroughly hilarious results. Then, finally, the band took the stage and
ripped into "Hey! Fascist," an earlier tune recorded as "Hey! Student" but
revived in fascistic sheen this evening. Fittingly, some unknown guy sang the
first few lines, giving Mark E. Smith ample time to saunter out and mumble out
a few chants of "Hey Fascist-ah."

You may have noticed that The Fall's last few albums have featured a number of
raging rockers with huge riffs that sound like songs that a drunk could really
pound his fist to, namely "Theme From Sparta F.C.," "Pacifying Joint," "What
About Us?," and "Assume." Well, that drunk was pretty much Mark E. Smith, and
of course, he treated us to all four of these songs. In an album context, they
work pretty well, but when they comprise the bulk of a short set, it truly
sounds like a bloke just wantin' to shake his fist while he rocks out.

Onstage, Smith spent the whole time skulking around with his eyes
three-fourths of the way closed, grabbing other band members' microphones for
the sole purpose of singing into two microphones at the same time. When he
wasn't singing, he was looking at the gear and obnoxiously chewing gum that
wasn't there. After about 30 minutes, he left the stage to let the band finish
a song that was only half done. They came back for about three more songs,
though he didn't perform on the last one, which was obviously not an
instrumental. The band itself performed pretty energetically, especially on
the fantastic "Aspen," though they all looked like they really, really hated
Mark.

While this may sound horribly dissatisfying, Mark E. Smith played the
character of Mark E. Smith to a tee, and I couldn't have been more delighted.
When audience members started angrily yelling at him to play more songs, I
couldn't help but feel like they were naïve newbies who had bought 50,000
Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong
and thought there was really a chance they were
going to hear "New Face in Hell." However, I reconsidered my glee when talking
to a guy from Melbourne who had seen the Fall many-a-times in the '80s and
ribbed my friend about being too easy to please and placing Smith on an
undeserved pedestal.

In the end, I would have to say I enjoyed the set, but not on the one-to-one
level of "this was a good performance, therefore I liked it." Rather, it
provided another enjoyable piece to the immense and baffling puzzle that is
The Fall. In fact, it got me excited enough that I put on the Peel Sessions
Box Set
first thing when I got home.

  

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