Faith No More | The Roundhouse, London - June 17th/18th, 2015
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 third and forth dates were Wednesday June 17th and Thursday June 18th in London, UK at the Camden Roundhouse.
Kerrang! | June 2015 | James Hickie
THE ROUNDHOUSE: it's an historic venue that's played host to such musical luminaries as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. That's not what interests Faith No More frontman Mike Patton about it though. To him, this is "where the trains used to turn around" referring to the fact this site used to host a depot for servicing steam locomotives. "But what does that mean?" Patton ponders. "It means half of you guys are fucked up!"
Well, that's Faith No More all over- a career spent framing things in a way that bypasses the obvious; and if you happen to care a lot about them, now's a rewarding time to be a fan. With the release of Sol Invictus - the seventh album you never thought would happen, with a 5k-rating that makes you glad it did - the San Franciscans have officially transitioned from 'reunion' phase to 'business as usual' mode.
This wedding of the old and the new is perhaps why the stage has been decked out like a pristine chapel - albeit one with a gimp wandering around it. And officiating proceedings is our cool - if hard to please - minister, the Reverend Patton.
When Epic receives a reaction befitting its name, Mike brands the crowd "fucking assholes". When the refrain to Midlife Crisis instigates a seismic sing-along that could spin a train, he simply shrugs, unimpressed, before showing them how it's done.
It's not a front he can maintain for too long, though. "We actually love you," he finally concedes after a delicious Ashes To Ashes, before leading men, women and children through a soaring Superhero.
Tonight, fuelled by amore, the FNM express continues to power across some magnificent tracks. Choo-fucking-choo.
Ross Halfin Photography
Faith No More review – mavericks return with jittery, gnarled intensity
In pop, as in colonialism, the pioneers get the arrows and the settlers get the land. Fusing metal, funk, prog rock and hip-hop as early as the mid-1980s, Faith No More were later held partly responsible for spawning the execrable nu-metal scene that was to follow in their wake.
Yet the Californian five-piece’s own musical roots lay in arty post-punk, as is evidenced by tonight’s set design. The stage is all billowing white curtains and bouquets, and easy listening fills the air, as if we are awaiting Barry Manilow. When Faith No More appear, clad in lounge-band white, they fire straight into a song called Motherfucker.
They are touring their recent Sol Invictus album, their first in 18 years, but the long absence appears to have diminished none of their jittery, gnarled intensity. The brutalist avant-noise of Be Aggressive and the malign funk of Midlife Crisis confirm that their spiritual kin were always mavericks like PiL or tonight’s support act, the Pop Group.
Mike Patton remains a driven, hypercharismatic front man, ladling bile and malice over the sourly anthemic Ricochet. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies is all Black Sabbath riffs and it’s obvious why Faith No More have just played at Download, but they’re so much more than a metal band: the knowing bombast of new track Matador swells into high camp like Bowie at his most outré.
After a taut, laudably thrilling set, they encore with the mocking sneer of 1987 single We Care A Lot, a sardonic evisceration of the hypocritical platitudes that underpinned much Live Aid-style charity pop. Remarkably, more than 30 years into a pathologically contrary career, it appears that they still do.
This was to be the first of three gigs in a week but Dave Grohl’s broken leg put paid to that.
I generally avoid reformed bands especially if I saw them in their pomp first time round. I saw Black Sabbath last summer (yeah I know) and Faith No More were on the support line up. They appeared at 4pm in a sunny Hyde Park and went down phenomenally well. Their break hadn’t dulled their edge and when I saw that they were touring a new album I thought, give it a go. It was only a couple of days ago that I clicked that The Pop Group were supporting.
The choice of The Pop Group was an odd one for much of Faith No More’s fanbase who grew up with the hits in the 90’s but it reflected Mike Patton and Co’s desire to take the road less traveled. Unfortunately the venue was only a third full for much of the support set and the intensity of The Pop Group’s performance was somewhat diluted as a result. As with many bands, one yearned for seeing them in a smaller venue playing to a “home” crowd.
Which is curious, as I felt the opposite about Faith No More to some extent. When I saw them supporting Sabbath, it was closer to a greatest hits set that easily won over a crowd that was just the right side of neutral. At the Roundhouse (with a crowd drawn from solely their fanbase), the band moved towards a more album based setlist and as a result I felt the crowd were slightly muted. Of course, “Epic” and “Midlife Crisis” in particular were rousing singalongs. (Jump to 2:20 in this clip to here the band break into Boz Scagg’s “Lowdown”).
Some of the more furious hardcore tracks such as “The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies” and “Digging The Grave”, whilst being fascinating, raw and visceral left the crowd a little flat. This being the case though, the new material blended seemlessly with old. In particular “Matador” grew with a brooding sense of bolero-esque drama and “Superhero” carried the melodies and punch of the “Real Thing” era.
The band were all in excellent form. “Evidence” was a particular example of this with the “Miss You” Stones vibe that contrasted with the rawer surrounding material. It illustrated how Mike Patton is three vocalists in one. He has his characterful baritone, his razor sharp rap style and his death metal growl. He bounced around like a prize fighter, ready to enter the fray.
The stage presentation added to the sense of drama. With everything and everyone clad in white with some rather fetching floral displays, the use of colour wash lighting simply but successfully altered the backdrop from song to song. There was also a guy in a gimp costume who did as Patton commanded for the opening song and encores. Not sure what is brought to the party or even if it was a party that I wanted to go to.
So two diverse and reformed bands who are still creating work that stands up to their canon – and neither compromising to the crowd’s expectations.
Too weird for the metal crowd, too loud for the indie world, Faith No More were always destined for passionate cult appeal. Reformed since 2009, not everyone will have been thrilled to see them coming back with their first new songs in 18 years this year, given that they opened the door for the reviled rap-rock genre with their biggest hit, 1989’s Epic.
The San Francisco quintet were always more interesting than their imitators, however.
While easy listening tunes from Mancini and Bacharach warmed up the headbangers, roadies decorated a pure white stage with more flowers than a state funeral. With the band all in white too, it looked less like a second coming and more like their heavenly afterlife.
Singer Mike Patton, pictured, was in combative mood, beginning every song in a crouch, legs splayed, as though ready to take a punch. Now 47, the affectionate crowd chanted “You fat bastard” at him. “That’s the London we know and love,” retorted keyboard player Roddy Bottum.
Bottum’s work was often what lifted the band above a more brutish guitar assault, especially on the sophisticated, climactic new one, Matador. They also showed a softer side by covering The Commodores’ smooth classic Easy, with no sign of iconoclasm or even a raised eyebrow.
The fans responded energetically to Midlife Crisis, appropriately enough given their average age these days. Perhaps it was the musical equivalent of buying a motorbike and a leather jacket and riding off with your secretary, with spat vocals and a shouted chorus that couldn’t fail to sweep the crowd upwards.
The impressive Superhero, towards the close, indicated that this is no midlife crisis, that this strange band have more to offer when they could be coasting on a dusty reputation.
Time, they say, is a great healer. In the late ‘90s when Faith No More hated each other, hated their audience and their audience was starting to tire of them, you could have seen them in far smaller venues than The Roundhouse. Venues that were far from full. Tonight, mere days after they played to a heaving field at Download, tickets are like gold dust. And they will be again tomorrow, when they headline this venue once more. It’s tempting to suggest that this is the power of nostalgia in full effect – tempting but inaccurate.
Because tonight as Faith No More step on stage, clad all in white and surrounded by the hilariously unmetal surroundings of fresh flowers, and Roddy Bottum teases out the sombre piano march of Motherfucker, the excitement is palpable. Opening with a new song when you have so many killer anthems in your arsenal is exactly the unexpected curveball you’d expect from the band. But there aren’t many bands that could expect such a unanimously positive response from brand new material.
Obviously Faith No More aren’t the same as many bands, and, seven years on from the delirium that greeted their return, it’s heartening to see that new album Sol Invictus has been as embraced by the fans with the same degree of love that was put into the creating of it. Both the weathered bombast of Matador and the spiky, evil funk of Superhero are greeted like classics. Not only that, but the approach of Faith No More is still as confrontational as ever. Singer Mike Patton, as dry and sarcastic a frontman as you’ll ever see, goads the crowd throughout and the band veer from the swinging slide guitar of Evidence to the speed metal roar of Digging The Grave as if it’s the most natural thing in the world rather than the dizzying head fuck that it actually is.
And, of course, when Faith No More do drop those genre defining classics it is still a breathtaking thing to behold. The crowd singing Midlife Crisis back to them a capella as they look on unimpressed (before sliding into a lounge version with a disco beat) is pure FNM. This is bolstered by the screams and croons Mike Patton shifts through in the blink of an eye on The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies, and that famous rhythm section of Billy Gould and Mike Bordin spanking out the oh-so familiar riff of Epic.
Not a moment of their 90 minutes onstage is wasted – there isn’t a cliché or an easy way taken for a second. “We have a problem Roundhouse,” states Patton before We Care A Lot closes their set, “We love you.” It’s more our problem, Mr. Patton. Even 30 years into a career his band are still waltzing effortlessly out in front of the crowd. Obtuse, unusual, in a genre of precisely one. How did we ever survive without them? Don’t ever leave us again.
interlude Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown"
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Last Cup of Sorrow
Digging the Grave
Ashes to Ashes
We Care a Lot
Land of Sunshine
interlude Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown"
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Surprise! You're Dead!
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
Cone of Shame
We Care a Lot
This Guy's in Love With You (Burt Bacharach)