There are no histrionics this time around, as Mark E Smith arrives promptly to tear up the Custom House Marquee
The Fall, led by perennial frontman Mark E Smith, are still going after 35 years. While the line-up has changed multiple times through the decades, the latest incarnation includes Smith’s Norwegian wife, Eleni, on keyboards, and has been performing together for the past five years – which is long, by Fall standards.
The previous time The Fall played in Belfast was in 2008, at the Cathedral Quarter Festival, when Smith almost didn’t make it to the stage. (Legend has it he was busy in Lavery’s back bar with his old mate, Alex Higgins, drinking up to 10.30pm.) Previous to that, there was an infamous no show in 1998, when the band finally broke up after a backstage punch up, leaving poor Terry Hooley to announce that 'The Fall will not be playing tonight'.
Thankfully, there is to be no repeat of such histrionics tonight, as Smith (now 56) promptly takes to the Custom House Square Marquee stage, also for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, at 9.30pm. He is (remarkably, unfortunately – insert your own adjective here) on his best behaviour, looking sprightly in trademark black leather jacket and crisp blue shirt.
The characteristically anarchic lead singer seems to be in good form as he shouts his inimitable introduction: 'Good evening, we are The Fall.' And, after a dramatic extended intro, the band launch into some superb new tracks taken from their 30th studio album, the forthcoming Re-Mit, which is released on Monday, May 13, and two previous albums, Ersatz GB and Your Future Our Clutter.
Latest single 'Hittite Man' is followed by 'Sir William Wray', 'Irish' and 'Bury'. Crowd pleasers like 'Strychnine' – featuring the unforgettable line, 'Some folks like water, some folks like wine, but I like the taste of straight Strychnine' – get the Belfast crowd fist-pumping en mass.
There also follows an electrifying version of 'Blindness', when an unusually good humoured Smith passes the mic into the crowd for accompaniment. One fan screams, 'Blind man have mercy on me.' It's a fitting finale for Salford's finest. And this electrifying, hour-long set is topped off with a thunderous encore of 'White Lightning'.
It's fair to say that The Fall's latest CQAF appearance lives up to expectations. Terry Hooley is once again in the audience, and is presumably relieved that all goes smoothly this time around – though what the band get up to post-gig is anyone's guess. Regardless, when it comes to performing, Mark E Smith’s anti-hero charisma shows no signs of burning out just yet.