Review by Alan Steenson for MPM
The Mission made their long-awaited return to The Belfast Limelight and The Button Factory in Dublin on the 23rd and 24th May.
The band graced large stadiums in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and as with a lot of acts of that era, faded out as time wore on. Although, in the case of The Mission, they lost none of their hard-core following and due to their early success, there are still enough to pack out both Irish dates.
The Mission have delivered 11 studio albums in total since the mid-80’s. Their most recent offering from 2016, ‘Another Fall From Grace’, has, for me, delivered The Mission’s ‘sound’ for the new millennium. The band’s line-ups have changed many times since the mid-90’s, but re-formed with the original three members: Wayne Hussey, Simon Hinkler and Craig Adams, but without drummer Mick Brown.
The drummer Mick Kelly recorded the last two studio albums and was very much a part of the new band until he decided to leave on the 20th of March this year with only a few weeks before the start of their latest tour.
The band did not let this deter them from putting on a show, or delaying the tour yet again (Covid delayed us all), so in stepped a young American drummer called Alex Baum to cram in last minute rehearsals. So far, the feedback from this tour has been very positive, so a minor crisis was averted… and on with the show.
The last time The Mission played in Ireland was back in 2016 when the Dublin gig failed to deliver due to various sound issues, but only a day later, the Belfast gig blew the roof off…so Belfast was first up on these Irish dates.
To start the evening off we were introduced to The Nilz a Dublin based tight unit led by a very charismatic singer who was sporting a very nice glittery gimp mask (well it looked like that from a distance) straight into a lightning-fast set consisting of 10 punky numbers that had the sound of the Damned and Ministry at times with angry vocals and heavy bass lines that shook you to the core.
Some nice moments in the set were when they would stop playing and suddenly and then start back up like they were half possessed. Halfway through the set the mask came off and we could finally see who was delivering the angry vocals.
The climax of the evening was a cover of Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’. I didn’t think it was possible to make that song any harder, but the Nilz delivered that in bucket loads and to top it all the singer turned his back to the crowd and dropped his trousers to reveal his rear, and with a little help from the guitarist, lit a firework between his arse cheeks.
What a way to end a set. The crowd reacted very positively overall and I looked forward to seeing them in Dublin the following evening.
Onto The Mission…they started the set with a walk-on to the instrumental called ‘Tadeusz (1912-1988)’ which was a b-side to the track ‘Beyond the Pale’, that opened the evening, a Mission classic track from ‘Children’.
From the start Wayne appeared to be a bit unhappy with the vocal levels from the sound desk, gesturing several times to turn the vocals up. Aside from that, the crowd enthusiastically lapped up the first number and the tone was set for the evening. Next up was a track from ‘Grains of Sand’, ‘Hands Across the Ocean’, one of those songs that was never really a favourite of mine but nevertheless was enjoyed by all that turned up.
After a quick hello from Wayne, he really hit the spot with their cover version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ a real fan favourite from the past and live it is still one of the best songs that they perform. We got brought right up to date with ‘Tyranny of Secrets’, then back to ‘Gods Own Medicine’ with the anthems ‘Garden of Delight’ and ‘Severina’.
Things slowed right down with ‘Only You and You Alone’ which was one of my personal favourites of the last album, unfortunately without Martin Gore to provide additional vocals.
‘Into the Blue’ gave the crowd plenty of hand raising moments and singing back to Wayne “only with you!”.
‘Grotesque’ was a song that a lot of the crowd may not have known from ‘God Is a Bullet’ which was supposed to be the Swan Song for The Mission back in 2008, but with a guest appearance at the London farewell gigs by Simon Hinkler, Wayne thankfully decided on re-forming and hey presto… here we are again, only with the original line up playing Wayne’s emotive song about animals being slaughtered for food. As a vegetarian and a passionate animal lover, this song lets loose with a barrage of imagery that would make the average meat eater feel very guilty.
The familiar intro of ‘Butterfly On a Wheel’ sets the crowd off in full voice from the front to the back of the Limelight, and as they calmed down, the slow screeching guitar launches us gradually into ‘Wasteland” complete with traditional confetti in the air which always looks great as Wayne launches into the first line “There’s a crystal view…..” Halfway through, the song slowed right down with a long instrumental interlude until “heaven and hell I know them well” is sung and the song erupts into a full final finale with the crowd singing in unison.
The hits kept coming with ‘Deliverance’, and the travelling fans from across the water provided with a traditional Mission Tower which always looks great in a small venue.
As the crowd screamed back “give me deliverance” repeatedly, it is usually at this point the band would walk off and return for the encore, but as it’s the Limelight, Wayne announced that it seemed a bit pointless to go out in the street so he picked up his guitar and started straight into ‘Fearful’ a slow building song from ‘Another Fall From Grace’ which was quickly followed by ‘Sacrilege’ with its high speed guitar opening that instantly set the crowd at the front dancing like something possessed.
A firm fans favourite ‘Swan Song’ was supposed to be the end to this first ‘Encore’ so, again rather than go out into the street, Wayne set down the guitar and burst into the last three songs starting with ‘Dance on Glass’ grasping the mike with both hands singing as the pulsating drum beat mesmerised us all after which, Wayne asked the crowd “what do you want to hear next?” The planned song ‘’Hungry as the Hunter’ was replaced after a few wanted ‘Naked and Savage’ which is always greeted with the ‘whoo hoo’s’ from Craig on Bass with the crowd joining in.
On the downside there were a few sound issues during the gig which you could see frustrated Wayne but for me it didn’t detract too much from the overall show. Others did say it was a bit muffled, but it didn’t deter the hard-core following at all.
The final song of the night was ‘Tower of Strength’ along with another ‘tower’ from the crowd as Wayne belted out this classic anthem to send the Belfast crowd into the night and for me, a few hours to recover before taking the trip to Dublin for the second part of these warm up shows.
Photography by Keery Irvine for MPM