After a career lasting 15 years and including successful stints on major labels, sell out tours, numerous awards and having been recognised as one of the most influential bands in the emo genre, Funeral for a Friend decided that it was the right time to call time on the band. They decided to call it quits with a tour playing both their classic albums, “Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation” and the follow up “Hours” – on separate nights at the same venue. Tickets were available for individual nights and could be bought as a package. We sent our budding rock fan Adrian Grainger along to both nights to witness the end.
Wednesday 13th April
The Birmingham Institute is a great venue – big enough that two bands were playing in separate rooms. The room FFAF were in was big enough to fit a decent sized crowd yet small enough to retain an intimate feel. The band wandered on with little or no fanfare. Singer Matt Davies-Kreye said a few words about the format of the evening – playing the album “Hours” from start to finish and exhorted the crowd to “go mental – but make sure you respect the people around you”.
The band launched into the blitzkrieg opening of “All The Rage” followed swiftly by their biggest hit – “Streetcar” replete with Davies-Kreye saying the “Hello” after the backing track of the phone ringing and then launching into “I Just Called To Say I f**kin’ Love You” as the riff really took off.
The band was clearly in top form and the circle pit that formed in front of me was already at a manic level! Apart from playing the songs, Davies-Kreye gave some lengthy introductions explaining the stories behind some of the songs. They opened “History” giving some background and we were asked to raise our fingers in salute to the politicians who are currently “screwing this country” and to a man everyone gave the appropriate two-finger salute during the chorus (“raise your fingers for one last salute”). The only slight mis-step of the evening was guitarist Kris Coombes-Roberts guitar packing up during the intro of“Roses For The Dead”. It was interesting to note that when Davies-Kreye asked who was going to the following night’s show, that not everyone put their hand in the air – seemed strange to this reviewer……
After completing the album, the band then treated us to some other highlights from their career, including 1% - the single from the last album, Chapter & Verse – and “Oblivion [Reunion]” from 3rd album ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves”. Matt took time out to say thanks to both the support acts and also to wish a happy birthday to “Craig Richards” who he advised was a huge factor in shaping the band during their career.
There was one more surprise -before launching into “Juneau” the band welcomed back their former guitarist Darran Smith – introduced with “We got this guy back so we thought we ought to play something that he knows”. The evening closed with a fine rendition of “Escape Artists Never Die”. A crowd – clearly in the mood to celebrate, left happy……
Juneau (with Darran Smith)
Thursday 14th April
….and most of them gathered together again for the second night. Matt appeared and explained that this was “Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation” before they launched into album opener “Rookie of the Year”. Matt seemed to talk a bit more in between songs – especially trying to engage with particular members of the audience – sometimes more successfully than others.
Fists were raised and “It’s not over, it’s only over when we say” from “Bullet Theory” seemed poignant given that Matt told us that although there were two more nights scheduled for the band, they were separated away from the main body of the tour and that this felt like the last two nights of the tour, so it was time for us to celebrate the band and their music. The crowd did this in spades.
“Juneau” featured another guest – this time vocalist Adam Carroll from support band Zoax. The crowd was at times joyful, at others tearful but pretty much every lyric was shouted at the top of most people’s voices, with the pace dropping only for the musical interlude of the acoustic “Your Revolution is a Joke”.
After the album had been played, the band treated us to some rare gems, including 4 songs from their EP compilation “Seven Ways to Scream Your Name”. Sensibly the band closed with two songs from “Hours” – the first was “History” which saw most fingers raised (again for “one last salute” and even saw some people with lighters aloft.
After the emotion of “History” it was all too soon time for the closing song of the evening which Matt introduced as the one song that summed up the very essence of the band and we were all secretly relieved that Kris’ guitar behaved for the introduction of “Roses For The Dead”. It was a fitting way to end an emotional but thoroughly enjoyable evening and the band seemed to spend a long time waving and saying goodbye after the show had finished – almost like they were soaking up the last time they were going to be playing in halls that size??
It seems a shame that the band is splitting up – certainly their last couple of albums seem to indicate they have a lot more to give but perhaps they feel it’s better to end with a bang in theatre’s and halls, than a drift into obscurity playing pubs – which many bands have done. Maybe the time was right? Whether that’s correct or not – they will be much missed.
Juneau (with Adam Carroll of Zoax)
- This Year's Most Open Heartbreak
Review by Adrian Grainger