Review: Songs to Learn & Sing – The Very Best of Echo & The Bunnymen @ The O2 Academy, Bournemouth

Review: Songs to Learn & Sing – The Very Best of Echo & The Bunnymen @ The O2 Academy, Bournemouth

Words and photos by Callum Linklater.

As you enter the main auditorium you can’t help but notice the grandeur of this grade II listed building that proudly boasts a majestic interior. Looking around I couldn’t help but notice the diversity among the audience, between age and even fashion, showing the significance The Bunnymen still hold for a range of generations. 

Opening for the tour is Erica Nockalls – best known for her violin / harmony vocalist role in The Wonder Stuff and as the live fiddle player for The Proclaimers. Stepping out alongside French  producer, recording and mixing engineer Jean-Charles Versari the pair showcase examples of tracks from her recent album ‘Dark Music From a Warm Place’ a fitting name that is very much encapsulated in the style of her music. Parts of the set had a likeness to the synth vibes of Chvrches if it was less indie pop but more dark and moody –  Cities in Dust by influential British post – punk / gothic rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees springs to mind.

Erica Nockalls

After warming the audience up into light dances and gentle sways the set comes to a gentle end the house lights fade back on. For some this will be their first concert of the year and maybe even the first chance to have seen The Bunnymen live. 

Shortly after 9 o’clock the stage fills with a thick fog setting a dark and mysterious atmosphere. Donning his signature dark shades Ian McCulloch and the band take to the stage, with a warm reception from the crowd opening their first set with ‘Going Up’ from their debut album ‘Crocodiles’ .

A soundtrack to many an evening at home, I was more aware of their singles over an in depth knowledge of their discography. Nonetheless the set included something for everyone with songs old and new, appealing to the die-hard fans who had been there from the very beginning, as well as to those who favoured the greatest hits, and even to newer fans. 

“This is a new one,” Ian says, receiving  curious murmurs from the audience. ‘Brussels is Haunted’ is the first of a couple of unreleased songs they played that night. How new this is really is up for debate when you realise one of the first videos on Youtube of this track was posted in Feb 2022. Raising the question: when will the track be officially released? Soon with a new album I hope, no official word yet though sadly.

One of my personal favourites is ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’  and this was one of the highlights of the evening which, placed right at the end of the first set, left me wanting more right then, which made the 20 minute wait for the start of the second set feel slightly longer than it really was due to the heightened anticipation for the concert to continue.

Despite the break in momentum that was built up in the set before the band resumed with ‘Show of Strength’ followed by ‘Over the Wall’ from their second album, which was the first top ten the band achieved in the UK albums chart. ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ divides the set as we are dealt eight songs before the band are set to come back on stage with the encore. The crowd participation combined with McCulloch vocals brought a wider smile to my face as I recalled those many evenings at home with my family growing up soundtracked by this song. After he thanked the crowd for their participation we were treated to yet another unreleased track first played at their warm up show in Gloucester ahead of the tour. The song is titled ‘Unstoppable Force’ which held a similar reflective tone as the song before.

Definitely receiving one of the loudest cheers that evening was Will Sargent playing the recognisable eerie opening to ‘The Killing Moon’ currently gaining a resurgence in popularity between the younger audience on the likes of Tik Tok. Yet another soundtrack to many nights out with friends at one of my favourite Southampton watering holes Heartbreakers Bar & Music Venue. ‘The Cutter’ which McCulloch had previously referred to as the “second best song of all time” concludes the main set as the band exit stage once more leaving the room filled with fog. Pushing towards curfew, fans stick around longer in the hopes to see the band come back again to finish the night off. Just as some start to filter out of the building to catch the last train service of the night, Ian and the band return with finishing up with ‘Lips Like Sugar’ much to the crowd’s delight.

It certainly appeared that the band enjoyed themselves in Bournemouth, indicated by ‘Mac’ being more chatty than he’s renowned for. Even if the sound meant that I couldn’t pick up much of what he said – something others in the crowd also mentioned –  luckily the music itself wasn’t affected. All in all taking into account for the intermission The Bunnymen are definitely still worth seeing in concert.

Set 1:
Going Up

All That Jazz



Brussels Is Haunted *** New ***

All My Colours (Zimbo)

Never Stop

Bring On the Dancing Horses
Set 2:
Show of Strength

Over the Wall (Tour debut)

Seven Seas

Nothing Lasts Forever / Walk on the Wild Side

Unstoppable Force *** New ***

Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

The Killing Moon

The Cutter


Lips Like Sugar


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