Live: The Fall

Barbed brilliance hits the south coast.

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The packed, glass domed venue is primed for The Fall to wreak their unmatchable brand of sonic carnage. The previous night in Brixton was, apparently, below par, but tonight Mark E Smith’s crew are on headspinning form.

On the opening Mister Rode, Smith is a gloriously deranged folk hero and wizard of Prestwich - audible but not visible. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the night as utilising a succession of technology our hero performs on and off the boards. “The poor c**t’s a legend and he’s not allowed to smoke onstage,” seethes one fan.

No matter. Face screwed up, squinting out at the crowd, chewing gum (and words) like it’s the first meal he’s had in weeks, Smith is never less than a reassuring force of vituperation, a living embodiment of the much-vaunted (but seldom located) truly anarchic spirit of rock’n’roll. He goads audience members, one of two drummers and Korg keys-playing girlfriend Elena, to have their say into the mics.

But there’s a definite method, even showmanship, to this saboteur, knob-twiddling madness. A thumping Sparta FC aside, the set locates The Fall’s golden period firmly in the present, the barbed brilliance and splenetic uproar of Dedication Not Medication and Quit iPhone.

Predominantly post-40s and male the audience nonetheless contains younger boys and girls. This means dancefloor mayhem marks the path to the climactic encore of 2007’s revitalised mission statement Reformation.

The Fall, then (and The Fall now ), turning chaos into euphoria. Still magnificent and unique.


Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.