Faith No More's European and UK tour in support of Sol Invictus was five years ago.
FNM began their Sol Invictus tour in Japan, Australia and the USA before returning to Europe in May 2015. The band returned to the UK for four consecutive dates, the second was Sunday June 14th in Glasgow, UK at the O2 Academy.
Patton has lost none of his impish malevolence. He wondered would the Scots alleged penchant for deep frying things extend to his genitalia, berated the audience for mocking them for being fat and old and challenged one audience member to a fight. All this in between breezy, good natured, charming chats.
Even the support acts at Faith No More can be unconventional. Early arrivals to the gig were greeted with Bristol's finest, the Pop Group, tearing through furious sounding slabs of funk, to what can safely be described as a mixed reception. An odd booking, but one that neatly surmises Faith No More's ability to still eschew the obvious.
If initial forays after 2009's reunion veered towards hit-playing convention, then this current jaunt supporting new record Sol Invictus has returned to the unexpected. Few bands could even attempt a triple-whammy of Evidence's jazz-heavy croon, Epic's communal head-banging and the jaunty acoustic-flavoured melody of Black Friday, but dexterity among musical genres would mean nothing if they weren't good at it.
As a vocalist, Mike Patton remains sublime, capable of providing sashaying smoothness to their cover of Easy, making a quip about getting a certain body part deep fried while in Scotland and then sounding like he was newly emerging from the pits of Hell on Ugly In The Morning's wall of noise. Such fury contrasted with the fivesome's all white outfits and the floral arrangements surrounding the stage, which gave the impression of a new age clinic suddenly getting their rock on.
Sol Invictus itself provided evidence they've not blunted their ideas, with a playfulness around sturdy rock structures, including some pop undertones on a rousing Superhero. The noise was consistently furious, with the rhythm section of Mike Bordin and Billy Gould propulsive, but that quirkier nature delivered an added spark, including an ear-splitting Midlife Crisis that casually, effortlessly, dropped in a snippet of Boz Scaggs tune Lowdown halfway through. The Academy, and Glasgow, may not see better this year.
It’s a strange billing on paper: Bristolian post-punk progenitors support San Franciscan metal mavericks – two bands that didn’t simultaneously exist the first time around. But like an anglicised Talking Heads coming apart at the seams, The Pop Group’s politicised funk reaches through time and space to jive surprisingly well with our hosts.
“This is getting old and so are you,” Mike Patton intones midway through Faith No More’s first Glasgow gig in 18 years. Not some antagonistic observation as he looks around both sold-out tiers of the Academy, but a lyric from the group's original 1997 ‘swansong’, Album of the Year – a work overcome by a sense of finality that seemed impossible to come back from. They toured it as though dressed for a funeral. Yet here they are, celebrating the irony of their own resurrection. "You guys remember the Barrowlands?" he asks, recalling a four night residency at the spring-floored institution where the crowd can topple the speaker stacks on a good night. "I think we should try that again."
An overzealous florist framed the stage while hippy anthems from bygone generations rung out over the PA before they walked on to slay it – flitting from The 5th Dimension’s cosmic sixties medley (Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In) to Primal Scream’s hedonistic beckoning (Loaded) in one easy crossfade – anyone on the outside of this very particular blend of humour might believe Patton’s men are on some new age crusade. Even the roadies are suited in angelic white; you picture the band pissing themselves behind the curtain before showtime.
Strolling on to the melancholy waltz of John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy theme, Patton joins keyboardist Roddy Bottum in rasping the sinister refrain to their return single as if they’re engaged in a voodoo prayer ritual: “Get the motherfucker on the phone.” It's all unfinished business; rather than shirk away from the elephant in the room by playing non-stop hits for cash, Faith No More have convincingly harpooned it with Sol Invictus – an unmistakably gothic and inventive record that still knows when to let the light in.
A testament to such innovation, time has been remarkably kind to the back catalogue; Angel Dust’s opening salvo ushers in a propulsive and ultimately exhilarating set that straddles their funk-twisting youth, avant-metal mid-career and the mischievous, wilfully divergent streak that runs through it all.
The galloping Land of Sunshine, paired with Caffeine’s schizophrenic groove (enhanced by the undiminished power of Mike 'Puffy' Bordin) showcase a stylistic restlessness that continues to characterise the barbed (but deceptively poppy) attack of Superhero or Black Friday’s Link Wray conjuring proto rock’n’roll. “This is only a test,” Patton whispers on the latter – perhaps a man learning to be more careful with a lyric.
Land of Sunshine
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
interlude Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown"
Ugly in the Morning
Last Cup of Sorrow
Ashes to Ashes
Strawberry Letter 23 (The Brothers Johnson)
We Care a Lot