The Color Fred, Angels and Airwaves, The Early November, Metro Station. What do these bands have in common? Well, not much, other than the fact that I don’t think that highly of any of them, and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see them live. However, I’ve seen all of them perform… twice. Why is this important? Well, I’m using it to show you just how strange it was that January 25th, 2009 was the first time I had the chance to see Funeral for a Friend, one of my all time favorite bands, perform live. The Welsh quintet has made only a select few appearances on American soil as of late, mainly a stint on the 2006 Warped Tour, and a brief summer headlining run to support 2007’s Tales Don’t Tell Themselves. On this night, they would take the stage at the Upstairs portion of Worcester’s Palladium with The Sleeping, Emarosa, and This is Hell.
While I missed both This is Hell and Emarosa, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken, considering this night, at least for me, belonged to Funeral for a Friend alone. However, I did have the (dis)pleasure of seeing The Sleeping in the main support slot. Frontman Doug Robinson did his best to stir up the crowd, and despite the fact that the Palladium sound was borderline atrocious and his vocals were barely distinguishable, he did get those in attendance moving for at least a while. The band started the set by furiously reeling off some of their most aggressive songs, including “Don’t Hold Back,” which had the crowd screaming along with fists in the air. The Sleeping then decided to slow it down, a questionable call considering the crowd seemed to lose interest after this. As the band finished off their set, some made their way for the exits, but most in the crowd began to inch closer to the stage in anticipation for an event that had been a long time coming.
As Funeral for a Friend took the stage, frontman Matt Davies took a second to survey the small but enthusiastic crowd before the band launched into “The Year’s Most Open Heart Break.” The fans near the front were elated by the choice, and sang along to one of the band’s oldest songs. This would be indicative of the rest of the set, for the band did a suburb job of mixing in old favorites with tracks from their most recent release, Memory and Humanity.
From here, the band would play Roses for the Dead, one of only two songs they would preform from 2005’s Hours. The set would be dominated by tracks from Memory and Humanity and 2003’s Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation. Songs from the latter record, arguably the band’s strongest effort, including “She Drove Me to Daytime Television,” “Novella,” and “Juneau” were a more than welcome surprise, and received the greatest response from the crowd. On a number of occasions Davies let those at the front of the stage do the singing while lead guitarist Chris Coombs-Roberts proved that the band’s musical prowess isn’t simply studio magic. While Davies didn’t talk for long, he did make a point of addressing the crowd on a number of occasions, and at one point he told the crowd Worcester was making a strong case for inclusion on the band’s next US tour, which he promised would not take another two years to become a reality.
The band debuted a number of tracks off their latest record, including lead single “Waterfront Dance Club,” “Rules and Games,” “Constant Illuminations,” and “You Can’t See the Wolves for the Forest,” which Davies passionately told the crowd was about “not letting anyone tell you how to think or what to do.” While the new tracks didn’t receive the same response as the Casually Dressed favorites, most in the audience did seem to be familiar with them. One unfortunate aspect of the night was the fact that the band did not play what I consider to be the new record’s two best tracks, “Kicking and Screaming,” and “Beneath the Burning Tree.”
The band decided to stack the end of the show with some of their strongest tracks, including “Reunion (Into Oblivion),” which inspired a huge sing along and was (somewhat) surprisingly the only song played off of 2007’s ambitious yet sub-par Tales Don’t Tell Themselves. The band would also perform “Streetcar,” the second song from Hours, and then close the set with “Escape Artists Never Die,” a song the crowd had been impatiently requesting all night.
As the band left the stage, the crowd began to chant for one more song, but to everyone’s surprise, the house lights went on and a security guard began to clear the crowd. No encore? Apparently not. The fact the band was making such a rare US appearance, had played for only an hour, and then had the nerve not to perform an encore was irritating to say the least. Despite this fact, the hour they had spent on stage was everything I could have hoped for, as the band executed a great set-list like the well-oiled machine they have obvioulsy become after years of international touring. They sounded great, interacted well with the crowd, and made the long wait seem more than worth it. However, they still have to make up for the lack of an encore. I would suggest another area show sometime soon would do the trick.
Funeral for a Friend Setlist
This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak
Roses for the Dead
Waterfront Dance Club
She Drove Me to Daytime Television
Maybe I Am
Rules and Games
Into Oblivion (Reunion)
You Can’t See the Wolves for the Forest
Escape Artists Never Die
I’ve always liked “Best Of” lists, but I’ve always had a lot of trouble compiling my own. In 2005, I made a list of the year’s 25 best records and gave a reason why for each. I’m not nearly that ambitious anymore, and I certainly didn’t hear 25 albums worthy of making such a list this year. That is why I’m going to present you with my Top Ten of 2008. I know, they are completely subjective and you might think all of these records such, but that’s ok, because everything on this list captured my imagination and reminded me why I still buy cds, at least for a little while. So here they are:
1) The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. Simply an amazing record that captures the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, modern day punk, and everything in between.
2) Fall Out Boy, Folie a’ Deux. It’s hard to justify putting a band like Fall Out Boy on this list, but they’ve simply never let me down. Folie a’ Deux is pure genious.
3) The Matches, A Band in Hope. The most creative and original band I listen to somehow manages to “out-weird” their previous efforts.
4) Alkaline Trio, Agony and Irony. Openning track “Calling All Skeletons” is easily my favorite of the year. I listened to this record non-stop all summer.
5) The Academy Is… Fast Times At Barrington High. Never would I have though this band would make it’s way on to a list like this after their laughable last record, but Fast Times was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
6) Bayside, Shudder. Classic Bayside.
7) Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger. I still haven’t decide if I like this or their debut record better, but both are excellent.
8. Funeral For A Friend, Memory and Humanity. The band’s top-notch guitar and drum work is aided by pristine production and Matt Davies’ simple yet supurb song writing skills. This record is a huge step back in the right direction after 2007’s disapointing Tales Don’t Tell Themselves.
9) Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends. I never liked Coldplay in the past, but this record changed that instantly. It’s refreshing to see a band achieve the success that they deserve.
10) Valencia, We All Need A Reason To Believe. This is one of those records that, on the surface seems like another happy and upbeat pop-punk record, but on the surface turns out to be much darker.