Echo and the Bunnymen with the Rosenbergs at the Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, July 12). $22.50. 416-870-8000.
ian mcculloch wouldn't care if Toronto implemented a smoking ban in bars.Wherever the frontman for Echo and the Bunnymen gigs, he makes sure he's chain-smoking while wearing his trademark shades. Hogtown will be no exception.
"I'm always smoking," he says, taking a drag, over the phone from Washington, DC's famed 9:30 Club.
While McCulloch keeps lighting up, he's also smoking in other areas. The band's latest release, Flowers, is a haunting, melodic pop-rock musical journey reminiscent of Echo's early days bellowing moody numbers like Killing Moon and Doors cover People Are Strange. Those songs, by the way, are sure to be on the set list when they hop into the Phoenix tonight.
Even two decades later, McCulloch is more than happy to dish out the (near) hits. Playing this North American tour is like a return to the psych-pop vibe he and the band were originally into.
"I think the Bunnymen have an archetypical sound that connects people. There's a certain familiarity to us.
"The Bunnymen sound also has this timeless, pure quality that's innocent, and I think people really like that."
They're now in their 23rd year, and Flowers is their third release since 1998. It's also a project McCulloch isn't taking lightly, especially after seeing disappointing sales of their last full-length, 1999's What Are You Going To Do With Your Life.
"The record comes out, you tour for a bit, and that's it. Game over. We don't want to do that this time. But I think that's what major labels do -- if (the album) doesn't fly off the shelves, they give up. Now I think the more people see us live, the more they'll buy the album."
Perhaps it's McCulloch's creative process, which he finds more in tune with the way they created 1980's Crocodiles, that's hooking new fans.
"It was really me, Will Seargent, a drum machine and two electric guitars sitting in my basement. We just played off each other and originated the songs right there and then. It was done over a two-week period," he says while listening to that evening's sound check.
"On this, there's really a Bunnymen sound. We got it back."