I don’t remember much about the one time I saw The Fall live.
I doubt Mark E Smith does either. It was 1997 and he was in the midst of an alcohol and drug period. I was in the midst of a crowd of sweaty punters in Dublin’s Mean Fiddler.
It was dark, it was loud, with the hip priest pacing a small stage. His band was promoting their latest record but – not being hugely familiar with any of their material then – most of the set was new to me. Looking back on it now all I can remember, apart from overpriced lager and the clouds of dry ice (somewhat inexplicably, for The Fall), was one song, ‘Totally Wired’.
I’d like to say the show blew my mind, or altered my way of thinking, or pushed me to start a band, but it didn’t. In the following 20 years I rarely listened to The Fall (until I put on ‘This Nation’s Saving Grace’ in the lead up to Christmas, as an antidote to enforced seasonal goodwill).
Now Smith is dead, and some music critics are touting the old ‘we shall not see his like again’ line. Which, in this case, is possibly true.
Irascible, frustrated, staring, scowling, and delivering machine gun lines on whatever took his fancy – that’s the way Smith was that night in Dublin, and that’s the way he usually was, it seems.
As he sang in the Mean Fiddler:
My heart and I agree. My heart and I agree.
I’m irate, peeved, irate, peeved,
Irate, bad state. bad state.
’cause I’m totally wired.