FAITH NO MORE "London Tour" : Hammersmith Odeon 08 July 2012, Brixton Academy 10 July 2012
Hammersmith : Woodpeckers From Mars, Deliliah, Midlife Crisis, Ricochet, Land of Sunshine, Evidence, Everythings Ruined, Last Cup of Sorrow, Spirit, Digging The Grave, Easy, Epic, King For A Day, Gentle Art of Making Enemies, Ashes To Ashes, Just A Man / Never Gonna Give You Up, Pills For Breakfast, Greed, We Care A Lot, Why Do You Bother? / Niggaz In Paris
Brixton : Woodpeckers From Mars, Deliliah, Midlife Crisis, Mini Mini C'Est La Vie, Be Aggressive, Caffeine, Evidence, Surprise You're Dead, Last Cup Of Sorrow, Spirit, Easy, Everythings Ruined, Epic, Gentle Art Of Making Enemies, King For A Day, Ashes To Ashes, Just A Man, Matador, As The Worm Turns, Ajde Jano, Stripsearch, We Care A Lot.
Three years and one month to the day after the first show of their occasional reunion tour, Faith No More bring to a close – for now, maybe for ever – with a return show in the very venue it started : Brixton Academy.
After twelve years of refuting any future, Faith No More followed the traditional route – no interviews, live shows, no new records. As these take considerably less effort for a strong financial return, and bear no risk of tarnishing any existing legacy, The Band That Said They Would Never Reformed have. After 18 months of solid touring, the band now play occasionally (4 shows in 2011, 8 in 2012). So gigs are rare as hens teeth. You take them where you can get them.
Brixton is the end : at least until the next announcement, and maybe forever. But that is Tuesday. Sunday is the Carling Labatts Hammersmith Apollo. Doesn't matter what it's called, which God Of Lager has sponsored it, or if it named after a fallen deity. It is THE Hammersmith Odeon. And that is the end of the matter : history has been made here : the names through these doors have been legendary.
During a bizarre, oppressive heatwave, an indoor venue sold out of 5,000 people, and a smaller headline show, Sunday is one of the fiercest, warmest shows I have seen. Instead of headlining Knebworth park in a recession, the now-cancelled Sonisphere Festival becomes instead a Victorian Theatre.
Of course, it's just a gig. But some shows are bigger than others. Some bands headline Wembley Arena, and nobody really cares too much. Sometimes, a band plays Hammersmith or Brixton – and its the event of the year for thousands. Tonight is only the second indoors show Faith No More have played in the UK in fifteen years. It has mahogany shelves and leather bound books. It is, as some people say, kind of a big deal to almost everyone here.
Sunday is insane. The heat is a crushed fist. I've been to some hot shows : Tool at Brixton, PJ Harvey in a heatwave. This is the hottest, sweatiest, warmest room I have been in in several years Before the band come on, the room eeks of middle aged man musk, as the clammy, stale oxygen sinks to the floor. There's a crackle in the air, the imperceptable electricity of something about to happen : there's a spark in the crowd, a sense that tonight the bomb is gonna go off. That it's going to be a lively night. With an average age of 39.7, it's also going to be a occasionally out-of-breath evening.
Fifteen years is a long time. And one can wonder about the relevancy of a band that hasn't released a note of music since John Major was in power, in the last millenium. But when the band are performing, the music is beyond any such relevancy, relating to people and feelings and emotions, not an idea or an economy.
More than the band, tonight, I think the crowd are really rather keen. And that's part of the rub : the audience often make the show. Tonight, if the audience are a vampire, the band are the transfusion. From the opening moments, to the final seconds of their cover of Jay-z & Kayne West's “Niggaz In Paris”, Hammersmith is some kind of rampant, slightly overweight, slightly middle-aged, 5,000 strong orgy of jumping.
Starting their mini-London Tour here, the band do not betray that this should have been an enormous field in Knebworth : it's a night in London, and, for their only two indoors shows of the tour, there's a sense of finality. The website and T-shirts are emblazoned with Faith No More 1982-2012, marking both their thirtieth anniversary, and perhaps indicating a end of something. Who knows? FNM have never been the most public or open of bands, with music doing the talking. (Talking of which, what a bizarre statement that is, music never talks, music feels).
Clad all in white, the band resembled Randall And Hopkirk Deceased, a set of walking, playing resurrected ghosts : is this a hint? Or merely a useful visual clue, similar to the uniforms the band wore in their closing years? Or am I thinking too much? Probably.
Hammersmith opens with the two-punch hit of “Woodpeckers From Mars”, and the big hit of “Midlife Crisis”. Strolling on as some kind of mexican pimp, Patton swaggers on to take us through Tom Jones “Delilah”. The classic irreverent cover. Faith No More's MO was always to choose a well known cover and add an element of showmanship, even outlandishly silly cabaret, into their show. The selection of songs, as per Brixton, is a near complete rotation of songs they played in London in 2009 : Nine songs at Hammersmith were not played at the opening night, and a further six at Brixton. It's no rote regurgitation, but a varied set of material.
Tonight is free of most of the band's breakthrough 1989 record, “The Real Thing”, possibly because that record is both pheonomenally over-rated - it's good, but not that good – and that it was largely rushed following a late-in-the-day sacking of Chuck Moseley : the fact is that record was made of finished instrumentals Patton had to weld lyrics onto, instead of creating a record as an equal partner.
Unlike most bands, who take their set almost exclusively from their biggest selling material, Faith No More lean heavily on their 1995 fall-from-grace “King For A Day”. It's a good record, certainly better than the mediocre sales might indicate : then again, the band were facing internal tension (they burnt through three guitarists in three years), and a fickle press and media relegated them to a band that was not given that fair a chance at the time : after all, Blurasis came and wiped away the traditional genres of heavy music in favour of some kind of monochrome, tracksuited apocalyptic boredom of monosyllabic Beatles fans who'd just missed The Stone Roses. In the meantime, the band produced a classy record that stood the middle ground between rock, metal, and anthemic weirdness. By the time the band power through “Land Of Sunshine” - opening song on the masterwork that is Angel Dust – I take my carefully considered reserve, decide "fuck it", and am jumping up and down like the 18 year old who bought this on the day it came out on double vinyl. Because it was cheaper.
For the first time in an age, London gets “Everything's Ruined.” This bizarre single has the venue utterly enrapt – with a lyrical morality tale built on avarice, greed, and naïve ambition. “He multiplied himself – the boy became a million - worked vertime - completed what was assigned”, Patton sings, talking for all we know, about himself.
Followed with the kind of broken, mid-paced groove that the band specialise in, such as “Last Cup of Sorrow” (their final UK single), its also clear that the band are comfortable playing songs from every period of their career, and not just the Remember-Us-It's-The-Big-Hits! Nostalgia show that too many bands indulge their fans in. And, being the final lineup the band have had that made their last recordings, its no spotwleded Frankenband doing covers.
The first eleven songs, mostly hits, give way in the second half to well known album songs – of the final eight songs only two - “Ashes To Ashes” and “We Care A Lot” are big singles. “Ashes To Ashes” is glorious, splendid. The kind of thing Fnm could do any day of the week, that sounds like God himself writing songs. “Smiling – at the foot of the mountain – I wait for you – at the mouth of the ocean - I SEE YOU!”, Patton threatens/promises with the kind of enticing disaster his band specialise in. As “Ashes To Ashes” comes to an end, the venue fills with sirens. Roddy has a panic button on his keyboard – which he has activated for some reason no one can fathom. - before closing the set with a flippant romp through Rickrolls “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
Encore time sees the band perform, for the first time in eons, nothing but ancient material from their first, quarter century old, vinyl only album. Self-pressed, hard to get, harder to listen to, “Faith No More” has only ever been issued on CD in Australia twenty years ago. Therefore, bringing back a rampant instrumental of “Pills For Breakfast”, and performing “Greed” for the first time in 22 years (Kaiserlautern, 1990, trivia fans), are both strange and brave moves. A barefoot Danny DeVito furiously banging out percussive maintenance on the stage just adds to the utter wrongness. Then it's “We Care A Lot”, and for the fifth time in 25 years, “Why Do You Bother?” which segues neatly.
Two nights later, and it's what may very well be the final death march. Brixton, which the band are now headlining for the ninth time. The t-shirt bridgade is far wider than Sunday : the South American, US, and Australian Tour contingent are all represented. Tuesday lacks in intense, vicious heat, or the furious release of three years of waiting that Hammersmith gifted us. But there's no lack of power from the stage. This could be the end of the Faith No More adventure for now, and maybe forever. Not that you would know from the stage : it's another ruthlessly dispatched set of playful anger and cathartic noise. Absent from Hammersmith, “Be Aggressive”, “Caffeine”, “Surprise You're Dead!”, “Matador”, “As The Worm Turns” and “Stripsearch” are huge slabs of noise received raptuorously judging from the jumping, sweating and whiplash inducing hair flying around.Album songs, such as “Caffeine” are screamed, word for word, by thousands : “Relax. It's so easy for you. It's just a phase. YOU'LL GROW OUT OF IT. I confess. Up to my neck. In Quicksand. QUICKSAND! QUICKSAND!” This might not mean much to you. It means quite a lot to me.
The walls are dripping. This is more than a gig. It has the feeling of some kind of finality : the way that Patton draws out the end of “Just A Man”, before leaping into the crowd. The antagonistic taunting of poker-faced security and perhaps more than anything on stage, the feeling during the crowd that this is it : the last hurrah.
Encore time sees some unusual choices : never released, the barely heard “Matador” gets its London premiere. Followed by “As The Worm Turns” - from the 1985 vinyl LP and released in 1992 on a Japanese CD single - the venue seems utterly confused. The sad, devoted, obscure-fans – yes, including me – meanwhile jump up and down yelling the words to songs that not many people know : “Outside its sunny and bright, looks like it's going to be a good day, and it would be, if only you had a job!”
Not that means anything to most people : 2nd encore sees “Stripsearch” and a final, exhausting “We Care A Lot”. With that, no fanfare, no big speeches, and nothing to indicate we've witnessed the end, Faith No More leave an exhausted Brixton breathless, happy and sad as the euphoria wears off and the walk to the underground begins. It might be the end. It might not. If it is, what a glorious way to go.
The next morning, I'm on the train going to work, and Roddy Bottum tweets : “London – what a sendoff!” Outside the world goes about its business, like normal. Epic.
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