Live Music + Gig Reviews

Funeral For A Friend @ Astoria, London

16 October 2003

Judging by the queues outside the Astoria this is THE hot ticket in London tonight. Overzealous security aside, it’s that trusty excuse for motorway jams – sheer weight of traffic – which is causing the delays, causing half the crowd to wait outside in the cold, guest-listers included. Not that they were missing too much by not seeing openers Hondo Maclean. This Welsh mob specialise in a hardcore / death metal hybrid that is damn heavy and sees vocalist Ben Woosnam running around the stage aurally vomiting into his microphone. They try hard but they don’t seem to have the brutal finesse of Norma Jean and other masters of the metalcore genre. Still, the kids seem to like it.

Ah, “the kids”. A cursory glance reveals that to the naked eye I am the oldest person around by at least 10 years. In fact, the place is packed with Adrian Moles: average age 13 and three-quarters and out for a fumble with anyone of the opposite sex who’s willing. At least it means there’s plenty of room at the bar…

Million Dead are up next and it is immediately clear that although they are only the second band on out of four, Adrian Mole likes them next best after headliners Funeral For A Friend. Their half an hour set is certainly a step forward from Hondo Maclean. Songs like Breaking The Back and Pornography For Cowards lie at the more hardcore end of emo, with scything guitars, stuttering rhythms and intelligent lyrics to boot. However, by the time the last song has swept past there’s a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction which I can’t quite put my finger on.

Further Seems Forever‘s set gives the answer to the question. Like Million Dead their latest album is a reasonable enough listen, although in theory they are a far more commercially-viable proposition, especially with vocalist Jason Gleason’s strong singing voice and Further, the fact that it Seems they will Forever be the band who spawned Dashboard Confessional.

However, live it’s the lack of groove that’s the issue. There’s no momentum to the songs as each one is cut up too many times by unnecessary changes of rhythm, giving an overall feeling of incohesion. The Moon Is Down, How To Start A Fire and The Sound are fine pieces on record and still sound good live but the sense remains of having eaten a sandwich when you were expecting a roast dinner.

Not so Funeral For A Friend. Matt Davies and cohorts may not look much older than Adrian Mole themselves but they’ve got all the ingredients to place them in a completely different class to the acts preceding them. That means monstrously heavy, and yes, groovy metal riffs at times, stage presence, fantastic vocals (whether screamed or sung) and, and here’s the rub, monumental choruses.

Songs like Bullet Theory, Escape Artists Never Die and the older, heavier The Art Of American Football are so anthemic that they seem curiously made for stadia, which is handy because that’s obviously where Funeral For A Friend are headed. That this is the case is reinforced during closer Juneau, where Mr Davies spends half the song being passed around the Adrian Moles’ hands, microphone gone, but with the song continuing as the rest of the crowd sing every word in unison. Nice.

For some reason the US didn’t “get” Funeral For A Friend when they toured there recently. Tonight the band postulate the theory from the stage that maybe it’s because the Americans didn’t understand their “British sense of humour”. Well, by choosing to miss a young band who sound this good, the joke’s clearly on them…

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Funeral For A Friend – Welcome Home Armageddon
Funeral For A Friend – Memory And Humanity
Funeral For A Friend – Tales Don’t Tell Themselves
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