Ultra Vivid Scene playing live in 1990

Concert Review: Ultra Vivid Scene and Ian McCulloch 04.09 @ The Palladium


Ultra Vivid Scene are the pop stars of the 1990s. Don’t let the “dark subject matter” of Kurt Ralske’s songs fool you. Bubble died with the past. Archies Realism is where pop is at now.

Ultra Vivid Scene consists of three “nice” boys and their girl “friend” playing well-crafted, incredibly articulate and intelligent pop ditties. You’ll never see them between the covers of Seventeen Magazine though. This is the thinking creature’s pop. Drawing inspiration from the atmosphere of the ‘60s, a time when change was the norm and anything was possible, Ralske takes creative freedom and twists it—shaping it into clever, concise and catchy hooks. Examples of this are the new single, “Staring At The Sun,” as well as first favorites, “She Screamed” and “Mercy Seat.”

Ultra Vivid Scene as a band has more power, and a smoother edge than its original inception as a solo project by Ralske. The three additional musicians—Colin on guitar, Ann on bass and Brian on drums—each add their own flare to Ralske’s songs, breathing more life and energy into them than one man was able to. Following Ralske’s lead, they take his music to an even further destination.

Even though some of the audience at The Palladium chose to ignore the forcefulness of UVS—opting instead for beer, billiards and itching about the band—UVS was the bright spot in an otherwise dreary evening.

Q: How many Ian McCulloch’s does it take to perform a solo show?

A: One—and a fifth.

Whatever that fifth was, it only added to an already exaggerated performance. Ian’s new back up band, those lively lads from Liverpool, sounded as if they were playing through Mr. Microphone and an A.M. radio. The band was mixed down horribly in order to accentuate Mac’s trademark vocals. He always held his own with Echo & the Bunnymen, so why the obvious attempt to strengthen his voice against the music? Maybe he needs to switch to a low tar cigarette and postpone the drinking until after the show’s over.

But McCulloh performed enough Bunnymen songs that anyone who hadn’t seen Echo before their tragic demise—perhaps because they were too young—could feel like a part of the early ‘80s musical Renaissance, a watered down version but a version still the same.

McCulloch’s solo material lacks the excitement and sincerity of his previous venture. Moving further into the adult contemporary arena, Mac joins the ever growing list of innovative “British Invasion” musicians who are thirty something and don’t realize it. Muttering unintelligible phrases between songs, McCulloch had to sit down between verses and during breaks to rest his weary bones. And so what if he forgot some of the words? How often have you been sitting around the campfire and can’t remember the second verse of “Kum-Ba-Ya” or “Michael Row the Boat Ashore?”

Perhaps success has taken over the 31-year-old performer’s mental faculties. Whatever the case, McCulloch is merely an echo of the Bunnymen. 

Here are some more concert reviews to check out:
Big Thief @ Metro Music Hall 4/30
Concert Review: Ministry