Nicholas Lativy

The Fall at Shepherd's Bush Empire

I last saw The Fall on the tour of Imperial Wax Solvent in Cambridge only a few days before I moved to London. Mark E Smith was wheelchair bound at the time and gave an awesome but rather strange performance, at one point singing from behind a door off the back of the stage.

I arrived a little early after work so wandered around the nearby Westfield shopping centre which on two separate occasions has been described to me as a likely site of any future “zombie apocalypse”. Shepherd’s Bush Empire isn’t much better, a medium-sized venue run by O2 with a rather soulless atmosphere. The opening act is inexplicably a teen pop-rock outfit who get complete silence from the audience with the exception of a few hecklers. They are followed by a laptop performance which irreverently mixes video and sound sources from the likes of Elvis and Michael Jackson. A similar performance was given on the last tour and I was somewhat taken aback by the intolerance of the Cambridge audience to anything that didn’t involve guitars; Shepherd’s Bush seems more appreciative but their attention starts to wane about 10 minutes into the set. Not long after The Fall storm the stage and launch into Y.F.O.C Showcase.

Tonight’s set draws mainly from Our Future Your Clutter and Imperial Wax Solvent with Mark E Smith giving the kind of performance he is famed for. The band ploughs through the material as Smith snarls fragments of lyrics which loosely resemble what’s on the album. He wanders the stage turning the volume on the amps up full and when that’s not enough presses his mic against them to give the sound an extra boost. The only quiet moment is when the band perform Weather Report 2, towards the end of which Smith seems to be talking to the audience. As I strain to make out the words all I pick up is Smith stating “This song, Weather Report, is the worst song I have heard in my entire life” before he turns his back on the audience and laughs dementedly into the microphone. The band return for a rampaging encore of Sparta FC and when I reach the underground platform the fans are still chanting its lyrics.