The lights dim and the cheers grow as the band walk on stage. But this is nothing. The crowd save their raucous whoops for the enigmatic, sun-bespectacled lead singer, Ian McCulloch, only letting go once they see him emerge from the darkness.
There's no question, the crowd last night were joyous. They were there for the love of it. Devoted fans, they were waiting, sometimes baiting McCulloch to give them what they wanted.
The band broke into action and the sound was spectacular. Crisp, crystal rock, blended perfectly, giving McCulloch the bright, soaring backdrop for his angst-ridden lyrics. Will Sergeant is an amazing guitarist, giving the songs exactly what they need. There's no ego to his playing – it's understated but absolutely vital.
By the third or fourth song, however, the O2 had turned into the tropics. The crowd was trying to keep its buzz, but their glistening faces and sluggish movements proved it was all getting a bit much. 'Turn the fans on you dozy bastards,' admonished McCulloch. And just in time.
Those who know Echo & the Bunnymen have come to expect and enjoy this kind of demanding McCulloch. As a bandleader, he's dictatorial, keeping the set tight. But telling off the supporting guitarist on stage (leaving him ashen-faced) and insisting on playing the guitar himself, despite his inability to actually do so very well, was all a bit much. McCulloch is good, but he's not that good.
Outbursts aside though, the gig built to its climax with the big guns, including 'Bring on the Dancing Horses' and 'Lips Like Sugar'. And of course, as McCulloch said, 'probably the greatest song ever written', 'The Killing Moon'. Everyone was singing along, encouraged, 'if you can be bothered', by McCulloch.
The encore was perfectly pitched with an extended 'Nothing Lasts Forever', wandering into 'In The Midnight Hour', and 'Walk on the Wild Side' – or rather 'take a walk on Merseyside' - and the night ended in a loud, celebratory explosion of 'The Cutter'.
Narrowly avoiding becoming a nostalgia act by the fact their hits have carried so well through the years, Echo & the Bunnymen gave a great gig last night. McCulloch may have hit a few dud notes, both literally and figuratively, but there's no denying he's still a natural, magnetic frontman supported by an incredible guitarist and undeniably great songs.