Funeral for a Friend release their new (seventh) studio album 'Chapter & Verse' on January 19th 2015 and to help promote it, they set up an 8 date UK tour. We were invited to have a chat with the band and to catch the opening night at The Fleece in Bristol. Adrian Grainger's name came up in the 'musicmuso lottery' so he left work early and slogged up the M5 to Bristol where he met up with guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts before the show to chat about all and sundry (interview to be posted shortly folks) and to enjoy the evening, here's how he got on....
The three band bill was opened by Creeper who had a brash sound but unfortunately not the tunes to stick in the memory. They closed with a song that was dominated by just one guitarist and vocals, showcasing the abilities of both band members but everytime you thought the full band would kick in, along came another verse – a brave but perhaps low key finish. There’s plenty of potential here but it was apparent that they need to improve their catalogue in order to win hearts and minds .
Next up, hailing from the USA were No Bragging Rights who hit the stage in a whirlwind of energy, movement and commitment. Their sound is a brash hardcore delivered (mostly) at high speed and volume by a very talented group. It passed a fairly enjoyable half hour although I would like to have had a bit of light and shade to their set – to give these old ears a bit of a break! Fair play to the band for making it over the pond to fulfil the gig as they had 'rolled' their van only a couple of days before and admitted to feeling blessed that they all walked away unscathed. Considering they arrived in the UK only on the morning of the gig, their energy levels were very impressive, I know I would have been shacked up in the hotel with an eye mask on and some soothing whale music in order to et me over the jet lag!
Next up was the band that everyone had come to see – Funeral For A Friend. A near capacity crowd were greeted with opener “1%” taken from the new album “Chapter & Verse”. The response was muted possibly for two reasons: 1) The album wasn’t due for release for another 4 days (although the video has been available for a while on YouTube) 2) The vocals seemed to be too quiet in the mix. This was followed by “Front Row Seats To The End Of The World" where the sound quality improved only slightly, prompting one punter to holler “Turn your mic up we can’t hear you!” after the song finished. Next up was “The Distance” and any sign of ring rust had now been shaken off and with a further improvement in the mix, the band seemed to hit full stride and the crowd was beginning to warm up, too. Singer Matt Davies-Kreye introduced another new song, "You’ve Got A Bad Case Of The Religions", with an almost apologetic statement that this song was about his thoughts on religion but this uptempo rocker got plenty of heads banging and by now a moshpit was beginning to form with various crowd members up on others shoulders for a better view. This was followed by fan favourite “Street Car” and The Fleece was now well and truly won over. Following on from this came another apology from Davies-Kreye. He explained that as it was the first day of the tour (“our first day back at school!”), everything was rehearsed properly except his between song patter….. After this brief aside were another couple of songs from the classic “Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation” album -“Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings” and “Story Telling” which were acclaimed as the great old friends they are, by a crowd now thoroughly warmed up.
Next up was “Wrench” which appeared on their greatest hits album “Your History Is Mine (2002 – 2009)”. This was followed by some more onstage banter which involved both guitarists playing little snippets of other bands songs (from memory "Walk This Way" and "Black Night" made brief but amusing appearances). At this point Matt went on to say the best way to get the most of the band wasn’t to be antagonistic and shout that you’ve not heard your favourite song (why do people at gigs do that – if you like the band why give them a hard time???). He went on to say that he would be at the merch stand after the song and would be happy to discuss song choices there – and he was as good as his word. Then it was time to crack on as he announced “Maybe I Am (an asshole)" much to general amusement from the audience.
We were now in the run to the end which included two more new songs (album opener “Stand By Me For The Millionth Time” and “The Jade Tree Years Were My Best”) but it was the classics “Recovery”, “Juneau” (include crowd acapella sing-a-long) , “History” – introduced as possibly one of their most political songs and set closer “Roses For The Dead” that left the crowd wanting more. Despite calls for an encore the band, in great theatrical tradition, left the crowd wanting more. The band was tight but you could tell that it was the opening night of the tour by the less than slick turnaround between some songs but this didn’t spoil the gig and in fact it was refreshing to see from a band of this experience. They looked like they were having fun and this transmitted itself to the audience. If you’re a fan of Funeral For A Friend and have not seen the band, I’d recommend you go and check them out live, they’re a bit more raw than in the studio but in a live situation, this is a really good thing.
Do yourself a favour and catch them as soon as you can.
Review by Adrian Grainger