It doesn't seem real somehow. The Mission no more? After 22 years, 10 studio albums, 2 live albums and several compilations of hits later this is the end of the road. A night of celebration of all things Mish. A night of laughter, old and new friends, and tears. A night of dancing like a loon, singing out of tune without a care and once again drinking the venue out of cider.
The evening kicked off early in O'Neills next to the venue for drinks with birthday girl madwitch and weaselbitch - as well as revolving door of others in the pub whom we knew, had met on previous evenings or just random Mish fans happy to talk and exchange Mission tales. The pub hadn't managed to restock the cider on draft but did luckily have bottles of Magnars which was a godsend - even if most of my first bottle ended up flying across the table!
It was a weird atmosphere. Mostly party but tinged with the knowledge that this was the end of a 22-year journey. Not only for the band but for many of the fans including yours truly. But hell, when the end of the road comes you can still party.
But there was no avoidance. This was it. This was Day 4 of The Final Chapter. There are no more days after this...
The 'Carved in Sand/Final Farewell' Night
Miles Hunt & Erica Knockalls
Miles Hunt & Erica Knockalls (respectively Vocalist/Guitarist and Violinist of The Wonderstuff) were tonights special guests and I was keen on catching them as I used to enjoy The Wonderstuff (well, mainly Eight-Legged Grove Machine, but still). Miles was on form with little andedotes about his career, his relationship with Wayne from The Mission, how much he owed The Mish in keeping the Stuffies together when he was about to chuck it all in, etc.
Musically it was an acoustic set made up with Miles on guitar and Erica on violin. They played some of Miles solo material as well as a couple of classic Wonderstuff songs. He also foolish gave us his post code and the offer to 'bring cake' which madwitch and myself duly noted and intend to pay him a visit one day - which will be chronicled :-p
He also mentioned that The Wonderstuff will be doing a Eight-Legged Grove Machine tour later this year dedicated to their debut album - so I guess I'll be seeing on stage again later this year too with any luck!
The Mission 'Carved in Sand'
The Mission played two sets this evening. The first part of which was completelty dedicated to Carved in Sand - their fourth album. as with the album they kicked the set off with 'Amelia' which is a fantastic, and touching, song of child abuse at the hands of a father. The song is very emotional and got an emotional evening off to a start. The next 45 minutes saw the rest of the album unfold - including one of the songs which Wayne said he was dreading to play as he knew that many of the fans didn't like it - but everyone seemed to still react very well to it (I think it was 'Lovely' which merged into 'Grapes of Wrath' ).
Simon Hinkler joined the band for the last three tracks of the main set - playign out with Belief, Hungry As The Hunter and Deliverance.
To be honest I'd be very hard pressed to pick the best live song out of this set - they were almost without fail all great tracks which played out really well. Amelia was fantastic.Paradise (Will Shine Like The Moon), Belief, Deliverance, Butterfly on a Wheel - oh I don't know. Roll a dice and pick one. They were all great.
What was also great was they played the fantastic Kinks song 'Mr Pleasent' (a b-side from the Deliverance single) and Like A Child Again as a 'Carved...' encore with Miles Hunt and Erica Knockalls joining the band onstage.
The Mission 'Farewell'
After a brief break the final farewell began with The Mission coming back to play their final performanceinfront of a very packed out Shepherds Bush Empire. This was the cumulation of the last 22 years with Wayne choosing some of his, and the fans, favourite songs to give everyone one mighty send-off.
They kicked straight into 'Like A Hurricane' which got an already hyper-active crowd going even more. 'Over The Hills And Far Away' followed and from there we went straight into 'Bridges Burning' and 'And The Dance Goes On'. Wednesday highlight 'Wake' followed and was every second as good as it was three whole days earlier. We then were treated to four tracks off Gods Own Medicine ('Stay With Me', 'Severina', 'Island in a Stream' and 'Love Me To Death') before moving onto the Children album for the incredible 'Dream On' and 'Fabienne'. 'Afterglow' and 'Forever More' followed closing the main section of the set.
The first encore saw The Mission joined by Simon Hinkler for a very emotional and crowd pleasing '1969' and 'Shelter From The Storm'.
They left the stage once more but the crowd knew there was still one final goodbye to be had and sure enough the band, as emotional as the hordes of sweaty and happy fans came back on and played 'Tower of Strength' for one final time - with the crowd making as much noise as any I've heard. Then it was the final goodbye. The final farewell and we were left in a cheering, applauding room of emotional fans not wanting to believe that it was all over. A fair number of the crowd stayed cherring and clapping the empty stage and the backdrop proclaiming 'Keep The Faith' and 'Goodbye' showing their appreciation and respect before filtering out in to the night.
There was also a special 'aftershow' event for the 100 fans who got the 'season' pass for all four dates. Unfortunately I didn't one of these as I was a bit skint when the season passes went on sale and they vanished within the hour in any case. I had to settle with the four single (and more expensive) tickets. A number of friends managed to get the passes though and were treated to an emotional Wayne and co doing an extra couple of tracks 'Serpents Kiss' and 'Wasteland'.
So, that was it. The Mission were absolutely fantastic live this evening and I will remember the gig forever. I've seen The Mission countless times since their 'Carved in Sand' Tour at Wembley Arena. I saw them headlining Finsbury Park with Killing Joke, New Model Army, Henry Rollins Band and Bleach in support - countless times at The Forum (ex-Town & Country Club), Brixton Academy, Shepherds Bush Empire and The Astoria and even up clsoe and personal at The Marquee. They've been a firm favourite of mine since 1987.
Who knows, maybe we will see them back in a few years doing a few 'special reunion' gigs. Maybe, maybe not. I'd like to think that this isn't the end of the road. But if it is then it's been a fantastic journey and they've provided a brilliant and touching sountrack to the last 21 years of my life from schoolboy to adult.
Regardless of the future the dance will always on and the memories will always be there along with their music.
Thank you to Wayne, Simon, Mick and Craig for starting the journey. To Wayne, Mark, Ritchie, Steve and, on the night, Simon for finishing it.