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:: The Fall :: Dr Freak’s Padded Cell ::
02 October 2003 / The BierKeller / Manchester
By Stephen Phythian

Being a long time fan of Mr Smith’s ramblings even I have to admit The Fall have been off the boil for the last few years but last night at The Bier Keller I was prepared to give them another shot.

Even I was not prepared for the support band ‘Dr Freak’s padded cell’, which if you can imagine being cornered in a dark alley and having five foul mouthed members of the socialist workers party ranting at you for forty minutes gives you some approximation of what I went through. I'm all for politics in music but you need some humour guys! Sample lyric; "they said it was a Christian war/but look at that Iraqi child’s eyes on the floor"...Jesus Christ! I say lyrics, most of it was just shouting, particularly a delightful ditty entitled “Dirty Motherfucker” which consisted of said refrain over and over for about fifteen minutes. "Mr Bush and Mr Blair are dirty..." you get the idea...

Needless to say we were close to cutting our wrists at this point but then The Fall appeared minus Mark E. Smith, who, in a consummate display of showmanship then swept on. A bit haggard, a bit worse for wear but it was The Fall and despite a slow start the old magic was still there. If it's true that Mark E could say anything to rapturous reception this was exemplified by the inter song link "Trebor Mints are a minty bit strong-AH!" At one point the mike got passed round the audience (this degree of audience participation would have been unheard of several years ago) and since nobody was quite sure what the tune was, everybody just did M.E.S. impressions with their favourite lyrics, kinda like a karaoke medley.

It became obvious however, like any band over a quarter of a century old, that nobody’s here for the new stuff. I’ve never seen a crowd explode in the way they did for old classics like ‘Mere Pseud Mag ed’ and ‘Mr Pharmacist’. The latter song further displayed M.E’s new found audience sympathy by dragging a bouncer from the mosh pit by the scruff of his neck for starting on a fan who’d been getting a bit carried away. On the whole I was pleasantly surprised. Songs like ‘Telephone Thing’ and ‘Behind the counter’ miss the electronica backdrop in this new stripped down line-up, but apart from that they still seem to be holding their own. Yes, Mark E Smith is out there, somewhere, doing what he does and I for one feel weirdly re-assured by that.

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