Jon Rollinson reviews The Fall at The Assembly, Leamington
Some 41 years and 30 studio albums after first grabbing a microphone as frontman to The Fall, Mark E Smith took unsteadily to the Assembly stage to kick start an hour of unique post-punk rock. The passing of those four decades appears to have taken something of a toll on Smith who didn't appear particularly well but nonetheless still managed to deliver a dozen songs in his usual atonal bark, kicking off Wednesday's gig with crowd favourite Wolf Kidult Man.
The various changes to the line up of The Fall, and there have been dozens because Smith fires band members like you or I fire off texts, never seem to impact on the quality of the output. The Fall have always been a band first and foremost with a fantastic sense of rhythm and, while you would never describe them as producing anything approaching dance music, you also can't help but move to the dogged driving repetition of some of the songs. Guitarist Pete Greenway's insistently chiming riff throughout "2014" is one such highlight.
No two Fall gigs can be the same, regardless of the set list. Smith is a restless presence on stage and cannot resist prowling amongst the amps, turning up the bass on this song, turning off Greenway's guitar almost completely on another. You can understand why he gets through so many musicians. But, despite the fiddling, and the absence of keyboardist Elena Poulou, this was still a good, if unspectacular, Fall gig. Occasionally, the band plays with two drummers and a meatier sound may have sparked a quietly respectful audience into life.
However it's entirely possible that the crowd was still recovering from support act Bo Ningen, an all Japanese line-up sporting impossibly long black hair and producing a blistering noise which referenced My Bloody Valentine to produce a Phil Spector-ish wail of sound. The visual impact and energy level of this group was astounding and drummer Monchan Monna provided a lesson in rhythm changes. Well worth seeing in the flesh but your ears will take a hammering!
* The gig took place on Wednesday February 1. Visit thefall.xyz for details of future tour dates.