First gig of the year for BM and what a joyous riot this was!
Quick history lesson – emerging from the Forest of Dean area in the early 90s, this indie/rave combo hit paydirt almost immediately with their first single ‘Unbelievable'(top 10 in UK, no 1 in the US) and went on to have several more hits and three albums before disappearing from view a couple of years later. Since then there have been long gaps of inactivity, the death of one original member (bassist Zac Foley) and a couple of other lineup changes but the core trio of James (vocals), Ian (guitar) and Derry (keyboards, samples) have played live regularly for the past decade, mainly at 90’s revival holiday camp events etc. However, after a new album (first in 27 years) tonight they are almost halfway into a shortish tour which includes Glasgow, first live appearance in 31 years. And you thought The Cure took things a bit slowly….
The near capacity audience was well up for this and after some 90s ravey sounds provided by DJ Dave (already provoking a bit of dancing) the self-proclaimed Ecstasy Mother Fuckers bounced onto the stage and proceeded to blow the place apart for the next hour and a half. Starting with early single ‘I Believe’ they blasted through a set which included material both old and new, along with several covers. The core trio, joined by newer members Adrian (drums) and Stevey (bass), fed off the frankly hysterical crowd from the get-go and were if anything slightly overwhelmed by the reaction they were getting.
BM tends to forgot how key Ian’s guitar-riffing was and still is to EMF’s core sound and tonight it was to the fore, with thrashing, power chords and screeching solos galore. James was charismatic as ever, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time, jumping around, goading the crowd, touching hands and constantly inciting singalongs and cheering. Musically the band were incredibly tight but most of all seemed to be having the time of their lives – there was banter, goofing around and a fair bit of self-deprecation. After a few songs the gap between was filled with the rising “here we, here we, here we fucking go…” – initially the band had no idea what was going on, but the delight on James’ face when he realised what the crowd was shouting was worth the price of admission alone tonight.
New cuts like ‘Sister Sandanista’ and ‘Crime of Passion’ (from last year’s comeback album ‘Go Go Sapiens’) were warmly received but it was the staff from those first two albums that really got the crowd going. A perhaps slightly ill-advised cover version (James said that on this tour they were doing a for-one-night-only cover on each date with specific relevance to the location) of ‘Into The Valley’ by The Skids (not exactly a Glasgow act but we can forgive them for that) led to a mass shoutalong and a breakdown the music which, remarkably, the band managed to turn into a triumph of improvisation (the footage is on setlist.fm’s EMF page). ‘Unbelievable’ was dispatched mid-set, to much jumping around (the crowd was actually quite mixed age and gender-wise) and ‘They’re Here'(from second album ‘Stigma’) was another set highlight.
After much teasing (‘we never play this live, you know’) the first song of the encore was their longstanding cover version of ‘Search And Destroy’, which provoked an outbreak of moshing which threatened to get out of hand (sadly in BM’s experience moshpits really are for the young and quick, not the old and drunk….) before continuing with ‘Inside’ and finally ‘EMF’. The group bow and Derry’s impassioned words about Glasgow being his favourite gig ever did not feel false in the slightest and after such a long break it really did feel like a genuinely emotional reunion of old friends. And the other thing which is quite clear is that EMF are not a heritage band, they may have taken a while to get a second wind but they are back on it baby, and then some.
Just don’t leave it quite so long next time guys!