The Fall, London Astoria 2, London, December 1998
Back to ‘The Mighty Fall’ as John Peel use to call them. Once is never enough - they require repeat viewings because as Mr Peel noted, Mark E. Smith’s cadre of musical foot soldiers are “…always different, always the same”. And chances are the next time I’d get to see them, the band will have a new line-up anyway. This gig was no exception, and saw them about a year down the line from that ugly on-stage NYC bust up, and about 6-7 months since the shambles at Dingwalls in April (well, I liked it, see Day 2). They were back on form and though still tweaking his line-up, the band was getting tighter, at last having a solid rhythm section again - the meat & potatoes of any Fall incarnation. In some ways this was probably a solid, mid-table performance by The Fall, but a classic example of Smith himself. He was revving the band up, telling them to catch up, and tongue lashing them for any slips. Laughing at his own inaudible jokes, prowling the stage and fiddling with mics and amps. This is definitive live Smith - it’s almost like he is mixing on stage himself, by draping more mics over the drum kick, or adjusting the guitar amp so he likes how it sounds. And woe-be-tide any guitarist who complains: the dole queue awaits. So, yeah. Marked (get it?) improvement from my first viewing in of The Fall in the UK, and it was great to hear them move on from recent ugly history to create a fresher sound. The following March would see the album The Marshall Suite released and it was a good ’un, so my ‘hit pick’ from this gig is a song from it that was so good, they played it twice! ‘Antidotes’ has that wonderful snarling, elongated vowel tic that is Smith’s signature - and of course, great mastery of english language. “Antidotes-uh, and dosie dotes-ahh!” He really is an English cultural treasure.