Sunday, 25 July 2010

Funeral For A Friend - London Shepherds Bush Empire - Friday 23rd July 2010

Funeral For A Friend are one of those bands that remain eternally misunderstood by so many people. Lumped in by many with the unimaginative 'emo' scene alongside the likes of My Chemical Romance but really one of the standouts of the post-hardcore scene that gripped the UK in the early 21st century. Their early EPs and debut album 'Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation' provide some of the best the genre has to offer, combining aggressive vocals and riffs with an ear for tuneful melody and the ability to write awesomely catchy songs. Now, seven years after the release of said debut record, the band play two special shows with the album being played in its entirety. This is to celebrate the contribution of guitarist Darran Smith to the band. These are his last headlining shows with the band before permanently departing after Sonisphere Festival next weekend. For fans these shows (the other of which was held at Cardiff University) provide not only an opportunity to bid farewell to a member of the band but also an opportunity (especially for those who weren't around the first time) to hear a great album in full.

Before FFAF take to the stage there is the pleasure of a support slot by The Automatic who, since replacing annoying shouty keyboard guy with Paul Mullen (yes, the guy from YCI:M), have actually become a pretty decent band. Sadly I only see half of their set after having a horrific journey to the venue to contend with but what I do see (including the monster choruses of 'Steve McQueen') persuades me that it's time to forgive them for their first record and give them another chance. Sadly The Blackout are extra special guests for this show. How they manage to be as shit as they actually are is beyond me but I guess they must be trying extra hard. I especially like how they have two vocalists to double the annoyance factor. They appear to be trying to be a post-hardcore band but their riffs are so watered down that they sound more like farts that are trying to be casually disguised and the vocals are abysmal. They manage to be a little catchy...but in an annoying Justin Bieber way not a good Take That way. Appropriately they come from Merthyr Tydfil which, I can honestly testify, is one of the biggest shitholes in the UK (even by the admission of people who live there). After their immensely crap set (which is well received by the Kerrang! devotees in the audience) it's finally time for the reason everyone is here.

Funeral For A Friend take to the stage at 9.30pm on the dot and kick straight into 'Rookie of the Year' (no prizes for guessing that), immediately prompting the start of a huge pit in the middle of the crowd. It's humbling to be at a gig where almost everyone sings along to almost every word of every song from an album and as the likes of 'Juneau' and 'Escape Artists Never Die' see the show progress the voices get progressively hoarser without ever dying out. Smith is reluctant to take any more of the spotlight than usual (i.e. not very much) but in between song chants of "Darren, Darren, Darren" and a barrage of horns in his direction prove how well appreciated he is by the band's fanbase. A particular highlight arrives in the form of the gentle 'Your Revolution Is A Joke' which sees just singer Matt Davies-Kreye and guitarist Kris Coombes-Roberts remain on stage. It's a spine-tingling moment for a song that most never expected to see live. By the time the band leave the stage with 'Novella' they have the crowd in the palm of their hand. Kicking off the non CD&DIC material with 'Into Oblivion (Reunion)' the band proceed to play their way through several highlights of their back catalogue from the finger tapping riffage of 'Roses For The Dead' through the rare b-side 'You Want Romance?' and golden oldie 'The Art of American Football' (which is spoilt by the fact that the band are joined by The Blackout's Sean Smith for the song). Sadly things run out of steam a little towards the end. 'Wrench' noticeably isn't known by a sizeable amount of the crowd (even less than the obscure b-side where I am). The intensity of the first set is never matched and, wonderful song though it is, 'History' isn't really the greatest of set closers. Still, the sight of the show ending with friends, crew and family onstage pushing Darran Smith to the centre of the stage to receive the blessing of the crowd is special and the first half of the show definitely was as well. Overall a top quality evening's entertainment and the best FFAF show I've been to yet.

The Automatic - 7/10
The Blackout - 0/10
Funeral For A Friend - 9/10

Funeral For A Friend Setlist
Rookie Of The Year
Bullet Theory
Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings
Escape Artists Never Die
Moments Forever Faded
She Drove Me To Daytime Television
Red Is The New Black
Your Revolution Is A Joke
Waking Up

Into Oblivion (Reunion)
The Art Of American Football
Roses For The Dead
You Want Romance?

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