Back when Funeral For A Friend were first exploding all over magazine covers, music video channels and on posters across teeangers rooms with their debut ‘Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation’, the band were branded with the tag of ’emo’. This was something they almost detested being pigeon-holed into, but across the years and after several releases FFAF definitely broke out of that tag. But this time around they’re coming back to their roots, on a tour playing the entirety of the album that got them what they dreamed about in the beginning.
The rumbles of sound could be heard upon entering the venue from openers Young Guns (**), who I had never really paid any interest to, and tonight was the same. They weren’t all that amazing, definitely not as much as Kerrang! and any other UK rock magazine seems to be peddling them as these days. Temptation to go off and have a mooch before the main act was very powering, but I knew that the venue was going to pack up even more after each of the three supports acts had been on, so I decided to keep my place.
The Automatic (***) were next up, a band that exploded onto the scene some 5 years ago now with their then hard to avoid hit ‘Monster’, and for a short while they were riding on the wave of that hit. Success hasn’t really been anywhere near that level since, despite a line of further releases. They may have been the odd ones out at this show, with any major crowd participation being only during their final song ‘Steve McQueen’. Needless to say that, with their breed of electronic beats and samples, and dance inspired drum patterns, plus the raucous punk sound all tied in together with the great harmonies coming from Paul and Robin made for an interesting set.
Next came ‘The Blackout’ (***) hailing from South Wales just like the show’s headliners. First time I came across these they weren’t too bad of a show. Now when I mean show I mean they had a ‘not take yourself too seriously’ attitude on stage which was fun and enjoyable to watch, but the musically it really was very linier and narrow in how it was projected and the same with the lyrics. Overall, they just did not inspire me, nor give that moment of wonderment when you go to see your favourite band live. Fair play to the guys though, having a lot of the crowd lapping up everything they did, but for the most part it was very much the Sean Smith show; the music was really just his accompaniment for the what show really was, which was just about him.
Finally it came to the headliners of the night. You could feel it all around you, the excitement was bubbling and when Funeral For A Friend (*****) hit the stage beginning with ‘Casually Dressed…’ opener ‘Rookie Of The Year’, there was an explosion of voices amassing around the venue. The band had set things off right, and it only got better from there. Everyone had brought their voices and was pumped; it was only during in-between songs that you could actually stand up properly and regain balance within the restless crowd. It was crazy, but who could blame them? Tonight was a night filled with emotions with the crowd singing back every word, and the thought looming in the air of Darran‘s recent departure, tonight was inspiring and yet a bit sad. Still, the band delivered everything with power and precision, never letting the energy levels drop enough to slow the pace of the night’s proceedings. To hear all these songs again in a live setting as well from a band who have matured so much, I was witnessing a new energy in the band when they played these songs; it was different, it was almost as if the band had a revelation of sorts, almost as if they had a new lease of life that was coming from the stage.
Once the band had ended ‘Novella’, the last song off their debut, it ended a triumphant segment in the night’s show. The crowd chanted for more, and after a few minutes the band leaped back on stage to a still frantic audience. They kicked things back into drive with ‘Into Oblivion’, creating a sea of people jumping up and down moving to the music. Next up was ‘The Art Of American Football’, which instilled more fire in the belly of the audience. The band were joined by Sean Smith of The Blackout who to me doesn’t really have a tasteful way of producing his somewhat cringe – worthy scream, but nevertheless he delivers his part. The band pulled out two classics from their critically acclaimed album ‘Hours’; playing ‘Roses For The Dead’ and ‘Streetcar’, both succeeding to generate huge crowd sing-a-longs. Their more recent song ‘Wrench’ kept energy levels afloat, which with its raucous punk sound and uplifting melodies had most of the crowd lapping it up. The way the band ended couldnâ€™t have been done any better in my eyes, closing ‘History’ to a crowd who in a sense “took it home to the Valleys”; it was a bittersweet but memorable moment to witness.
Written by Joe Sheridan