Of all of the various nostalgic gigs I’ve attended in recent years – and I’m beginning to worry that I seem to be doing more of these than I see new bands – this was one that I never really thought I’d get the chance to see.
My love of Faith No More goes back a long, long way, back well over twenty years or so to where I first heard Epic on MTV Europe, back before MTV UK even appeared. The garish video and catchy song had me hooked, and by the time of the release of the truly, madly, brilliant Angel Dust in 1992, I was totally enthralled. My first favourite alternative band, possibly, my first band T-shirt certainly.
But by the time the barely-hidden animosity in the band finally tore them apart, I’d never had the chance to see them live, having been that little bit too young in 1992 (it was 1995 before I started going to gigs). And with it looking like they would never reform, that faint hope was extinguished. To cut a long story short, I wasted no time this time around once these shows were announced, and can thank a friend for picking me up a ticket.
On a night like this, there wasn’t any point in bothering with the support band (we were all a bit later meeting in a local pub anyway), and by the time we got inside the cavernous Apollo, it was rapidly filling up, and the stage was equally rapidly being turned white, with white covers for just about everything onstage…and flowers. Lots and lots of flowers, perhaps suggesting there are future careers as florists for the band at some point.
Maybe it was the anticipation, but the forty-five minute wait didn’t half stretch out, and I think it was partly a roar of relief from the crowd when they did appear, at around 2120, and dug straight into a vaguely predictable intro, in the form of one of their better instrumentals (Woodpecker From Mars). Less predictable was Mike Patton – looking dapper in a white outfit and straw hat! – drawing the crowd into a singalong of Delilah as the song closed out!
Even better, I didn’t have to wait long for some of my favourite songs to get rolled out. A glorious Midlife Crisis was perhaps sung more by the crowd than Patton, while the one song I truly wanted to hear – I’d have pretty much taken anything else as long as it was played – was duly granted with a monstrous, bass-heavy charge through Everything’s Ruined.
Woodpecker From Mars (including elements of “Delilah” by Tom Jones)
Land of Sunshine
Last Cup of Sorrow
Digging the Grave
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
Just a Man (including elements of “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley)
Pills for Breakfast
We Care a Lot
Why Do You Bother? (including elements of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris”)
But for all the expected stuff – Epic and all – there were some big surprises. I was never a great fan of fifth album King For A Day…Fool For A Lifetime, finding it rather unfocussed and seriously patchy. Evidently the band think differently, or have begun to think differently, seeing as they played the whole thing at a South American gig late last year, and here playing nearly half of it. This reminded me that there was definitely some great stuff on it – the smooth, lounge-esque balladry of Evidence, the sarcastic fury of …Enemies and, best of all, the slow-burn of Ricochet, a song I reckon I haven’t heard in six or seven years. Needless to say I’ve been revisiting the album since, but I’ve still not sold on Just A Man, which quite inexplicably closed the main set here.
All credit, though, to the band for avoiding just playing the hits. Yeah, so they played some of their best-known songs. but aside from Epic, avoided most of The Real Thing, and instead dug into musty corners of their back catalogue to play some seriously obscure stuff. And you know what? The show was all the better for it. The odd gasp of recognition as long-forgotten songs roared into life, and the scratching of the head more than once trying to work out what an earth the next one was.
Faith No More were always a challenging band, with a much, much broader mindset than many of their so-called peers, inadvertently influencing countless bands along the way with their fearless risk-taking, their changes of direction and their fusing of many styles – even rap-rock done properly – so this really, really varied set actually made perfect sense. And it is also worth noting that I can’t be the only one who ended up being much more broad-minded in their music tastes as a result of being exposed to the controlled chaos of FNM’s sound early on.
But even I wasn’t expecting the gig to eventually take in being rickrolled, include snippets of Jay-Z, and to have an encore involving only songs from their very first album, now twenty-seven years old. And yes, this included one last big sing-a-long for the crowd in the way of We Care A Lot, which was utterly joyous, and apparently we’re not going to get bored of anytime soon going on the reaction to it.
By the end of it I was exhausted, had sung myself hoarse, and my feet were killing me. It was worth every fucking minute, though.