ONE by one, the crowd filed out of the HMV Picture House - the long-time fans rolling their eyes, the rest of them with a perceptible anger and frustration in their demeanour.
Oddly enough, last Thursday’s gig had got off to a promising start. Mark E Smith came on to a hero’s welcome, and his band, the latest incarnation of The Fall, seemed tight, together and ready to deliver.
But it soon became apparent all was not well.
Smith, it seemed, had had a few. On closer inspection, he’d probably had a good few. The singer staggered around stage for a bit, then went off to deliver his vocals from the wings. Ten minutes later, he came back on, threw his mic into the bass drum, and then he was off again.
The band, seemingly as confused as anyone, played on, at first keeping things moving and then starting to look more concerned as the boos got louder. Understandably they soon gave up the ghost, walking off themselves. Keyboardist Eleni Poulou (Smith’s wife) then returned to explain that her man wouldn’t be back.
At £19.50 a ticket, Smith’s behaviour was unacceptable. So, too, was the reaction of a section of the crowd, who turned on Poulou with a volley of insults and beer glasses (mercifully, plastic ones).
Of course, it’s hardly the first time Smith has walked off - last year, at Studio 24, he was gone after six songs. Sadly, he gets away with it because his fanboys just shrug and say, ‘that’s rock and roll for you!’.
I don’t get it. How can it be rock and roll when you’re half expecting it?