The years haven’t been especially kind to bands that came to popular attention from the nineties industrial rock boom in many ways, with few bands surviving the late-90s as the bubble burst – either they fell victim to alcohol and drugs, the mass of record label consolidations at the end of the decade, volatile inter-band relationships, or simply changing fashions and/or tastes that saw most of these bands suddenly not very “cool” – something many bands in the scene combatted by toning down the electronics, which ironically saw them fall from grace even quicker.
O2 Academy Islington, London N1
Very much against the odds, Filter are one band that survived that initial feeding frenzy, and are still going in 2013. Ok, so they aren’t quite the draw that they perhaps were in the 90s, with a fair time between albums for a while (not to mention something of a dip in quality for some time), but with a punchy new album out, I have to confess that I was a bit surprised to find a near-full Academy well before they took the stage.
In fact, it was nearly full (with quite a number in the upstairs bar, too) well before Cage The Gods completed their set. We caught the last couple of songs of their set, and I can’t say I heard anything whatsoever to keep me interested. Plodding “classic” rock, with a vocalist who didn’t half sound like Chris Cornell at points, a band that are so in thrall to the past that they neglected to write anything that would make them stand out.
Welcome to the Fold
What Do You Say
We Hate It When You Get What You Want
(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do
Take A Picture
Soldiers of Misfortune
The Best Things
So I Quit/War Pigs
Hey Man Nice Shot
No such problems for Filter, a band who from the start of their career managed to balance industrial (electronic) and rock influences well, all the while keeping a strongly melodic feel to most of their material, that paid off well with near-mainstream success over their first couple of albums.
I’d never seen Filter live before this night – as I recall they’ve only made a handful of live appearances in the UK over the years, and reviews from some of those shows suggested that this was not a band that travelled particularly well. But with such a strong new album – easily their best since Title of Record some fourteen years ago – I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them live at long last. And as they took the stage to the ambient drones of Sand, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were going to be starting the show with something old – and the blast of kickdrum did indeed herald a thumping, anthemic Welcome To The Fold.
I was kinda expecting a lot of new material with the odd old song, so I was very surprised indeed to find the opposite being the case. Pretty much everything any long-time fan might have wanted to hear was played, including a few surprises (most notably the grinding grooves of soundtrack offcut Jurassitol, played early on). Indeed, it took until four songs in before any new songs were played, and even then only three from the current album were played at all.
Don’t see this as a lack of confidence in new material, though, as I don’t think that was the intention at all. The band – particularly Richard Patrick – were in friendly, chatty form all night between songs, and not only seemed genuinely moved at the big, enthusiastic crowdd, but also that there was this kind of positive reaction for a band who have been around for nearly twenty years now, having had a number of ups and downs.
That new material actually had the whole crowd leaping and whooping, surprisingly enough, as the opening two tracks from it were unleashed back-to-back, with What Do You Say in particular having a massive, hulking stomp with the frequent call of “hey” during the song absolutely roared back by the crowd, and it is easily one of their best tracks live. Nods back to their more chequered past were made, too, with Patrick notably unrepentent about his previous drug use (I recall he has long since given up), and unleashing two old favourites about the subject in the heart of the set. (Can’t You) Trip Like I Do was the first, and was an exhilarating blast, played complete with The Crystal Method’s awesome electronic programming, while their biggest mainstream hit, Take A Picture, seemed a whole lot less mawkish live than it does on record, that’s for sure.
The second half of the set perhaps lacked a little of the intensity of the first – partly down to the impressive front-loading of the set with most of the most energetic songs, and partly down to a couple of technical issues that checked momentum somewhat – but probably the most electronic of their songs, a glorious The Best Things, closed out the show.
This was one of those shows where it felt a little churlish to cheer for an encore – they’d already been onstage for nearly 90 minutes – but there was still a couple of items of unfinished business. One was a breathless, hyper-speed sprint through So I Quit – complete with a breakdown and diversion into Black Sabbath’s War Pigs (!), but the last song of the night was the one that got them the attention in the first place. Partly for it’s oh-so-notorious subject matter – the live on TV suicide of Budd Dwyer, but more importantly musically for it’s co-opting of grunge quietLOUD dynamics into industrial rock – a stalking, omnious bassline that absolutely explodes into that chorus (and that guitar riff was also used by Stabbing Westward on Ungod, too – a result of the same guitarist working with both bands at the same time, as I understand it!). Live, it is everything bit as brilliant as on record, thankfully…
Even after the last notes had rung out, the band were still onstage soaking up the applause from the crowd, and offering their appreciation for all the fans that came out. Sometimes, this kind of thing feels all a bit forced – as if bands feel they must do this regardless – but here it felt completely genuine, a band truly bowled over by their fans. It’s something a number of other bands could perhaps do with noting – it’s amazing how a little bit of appreciation of their fans goes down. But then, we were applauding back – this was a hugely entertaining show, delivering much more than expected for the fans, and suggesting there is life in this band yet.