The Fall - Last Night At The Palais
Being a fairly forgetful chap I’ve always had a ‘to do’ list, be it written on the back of my hand or in these modern times on some piece of electronic equipment constantly beeping at me. The list usually contains fairly simple tasks like 'get milk', 'chase up The Duloks interview' or 'bury body in the woods'.
But unbeknown to most I have a second list. On this are bigger goals, world changing tasks of massive importance. The first item on this list, written in green crayon when I was 15 is “Join The Fall”. With an ever-changing line-up I figured probability was on my side and that at some point, like jury service, I would be called up with my limited musical ability to be educated and indoctrinated in the ways of Mark E Smith. Elsewhere on this list, slightly further down, it also reads “Watch bands at Hammersmith Palais”. Now, sadly, only one of the items on that list is achievable.
In early 2007 the legendary music venue namechecked by The Clash was condemned to be demolished. Several artists played farewell shows there but on the 1st of April 2007 the final show was undertaken by The Fall. This CD & DVD set documents that event.
The current line-up start the show without volatile frontman Smith, playing the pounding riffs of ‘Senior Twilight Stock Replacer’ but it’s on the second number (‘Pacifiying Joint’) that Mark makes his way to the stage and begins vocal duties, ambling round the stage, shoving bandmates around and exuding the charismatic swagger that only he possesses.
There are a couple of covers in the set, namely ‘White Lightening’ and Zappa’s ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’. We take a jaunt back to the eighties with ‘Wrong Place, Right Time’. But as a band to never rest upon their laurels, the cream of the set consists of new material. The mindblowing ‘Theme From Sparta F.C.’, ‘Reformation’ and ‘Blindness’ are delivered with such virility and force that their essence is leeched into every brick of the ill-fated building.
Throughout the set Smith wanders around the stage, adjusting amps, hurling his microphone into the audience and intruding upon keyboard player - and wife - Elena Poulou’s equipment. Like the mastermind he is, Smith conducts and fine-tunes the “fall sound” on the fly. Of course he could also just be a cantankerous bastard interfering with his band for the hell of it. But the resonance coming out of the speakers says otherwise; there is method to his madness. As the only constant to the band in thirty three years his unconventional methods have yielded consistently brilliant results.
There could not be a finer band to end the Palais' celebrated run. This release not only marks the end of an era but it is a glorious musical document of one of the UK’s finest bands in full flight.