On a Mission

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I saw The Mission live for the second time tonight at London’s Brixton Academy. In 1991 they were blown away by their opening act, Irish indie rockers, Power Of Dreams. By all accounts I caught them in a bad patch, with inter-band tensions having already resulted in the departure of guitarist Simon Hinkler and soon to spell a temporary hiatus.

Tonight I attended with no particular expectations. To be honest the main draw was special guests Fields Of The Nephilim and I hadn’t kept up with recent Mish releases. So, WOW! What a revelation. But first…

The Neph were as good as I knew they would be. No matter that singer Carl McCoy is the only remaining original member, the songs stand up for themselves. Shroud and Straight To The Light from last studio outing, Mourning Sun aren’t really up there with the ‘classic’ period but they set a suitably sombre tone for the rest of the set which represents the band’s oeuvre well. Inevitably, favourites like Preacher Man and Psychonaut elicit the most powerful response but it’s good to hear highlights from the underrated Zoon album like Penetration (an atypical thrasher) and the title track [part 3]. It was a greatest hits set but most of their back catalogue fits that description. Genre notwithstanding, The Neph are in a league of their own – just a very good rock band.

I wanted to leave then – for surely nothing could top that?  I nearly did but I’m glad I stayed for at least some of the rest.

Leaving aside the dreaded ‘G’ word, The Mish (and indeed, The Neph) belong to a certain strain of ‘cult’ act. Earnest yet humorous with it, never breaking really big but refusing to lay down and die, they attract the kind of adulation reserved for Premiership footballers and X-Factor hopefuls – even if frontman Wayne Hussey looks more like a geography teacher these days. There’s an almost ritualistic level of devotion that’s easy to ridicule but harder to rationalise. There was a real vibe in the house tonight; real love. That was what made it. I kinda felt like a traitor for leaving.

Beyond The Pale was a storming opener. In the live arena it’s all about the rock and Hussey’s ear for a well-worn cliche barely grates as it can on album. Hands Across The Ocean and Serpent’s Kiss were nearly as good. Garden Of Delights and Severina worked far better live than on their tinny-sounding early recordings and special mention must go to the touring drummer who tore into his parts with obvious gusto. He’s the only non-original member, with Hinkler back on lead guitar and an Alarm-revitalised Craig Adams on bass. I departed to the fading strains of the sublime Butterfly On A Wheel, a very happy man indeed. I would loved to have stayed longer were it not for the fact of work in er, seven and a half hours, but it was time enough for the Mission to restore – in my eyes – their rock’n’roll reputation.

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