The Fall: London Camden Dingwalls

Tonight it's difficult to tell just how badly Mark E Smith is taking the piss...

It’s Camden. It’s The Fall. What do you really expect? Well, what you get is the circus. Accepted, new album ‘The Unutterable’ is something of a creative renaissance for Mark E Smith, a return to the dirty, edgy depths of a bygone age, when The Fall actually mattered to more than the handful of devotees currently rammed into Dingwalls.

And tonight it’s difficult to tell just how badly Mark E Smith is taking the piss out of his fans, and more to the point, the rest of his band.

He allows his (almost teenage) band members the petty indulgence of performing for a few minutes before he staggers onstage, soiled shirt holding together badly ironed trousers. He allows them this because from then on in, this, as it has been since the dawn of time, is the Mark E Smith Show.

First he wanders over to the keyboard, and slowly but precisely makes the most godawful sound you’ve ever heard. Then he confiscates the guitarist’s microphone, before wandering over to the bassist and messing with his amps.

Half the time you sense it’s out of plain mischeviousness, at others pure senility. Either way, watching The Fall in late 2000 is more about voyuerism than entertainment, like watching motor racing purely for the crashes. Knowing Smith, now he’ll probably bow out with a whimper rather than a bang – just to be stubborn.

Julian Marshall