Wednesday, 20 February 2013

#40: Funeral for a Friend - NQ, Manchester - 16/2/13

I often think that, as a band, it must be quite disheartening playing smaller, more intimate venues after several years of larger ones. It's almost an admittance on the behalf of tour managers/promoters that your fan base isn't what it once was or that your music doesn't resonate the same way it once did. However tonight's show at NQ proved that, forFuneral for a Friend at least, a downsizing in venue doesn't always mean a regression in career. In fact, the very notion that the band are still releasing albums and touring when so many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside proves that they're a band that still have a lot left to give.

The first band of the night are I Divide. Exeter's freshest five piece have been hotly tipped as a band to watch out for over the coming months and seeing them live it's easy to see why. Though they've only been a band since 2011 their music is as confident as it is accessible. Pop hooks punctuate heavy riffs throughout in a style that will no doubt appeal to fans of bands such as You Me At Six or Saosin. The band upholds a kind of youthful exuberance and despite playing to a limited crowd, it's transferred to those already at the front, foreshadowing what's expected to be an energetic show.

The second band to grace the stage are Major League, a pop-punk quintet from New Jersey. Despite this being the first time in the UK for the band, they have already garnered a devout following amongst aficionados of the ever-growing transatlantic punk scene. Capturing the lovelorn innocence of bands such as New Found Glory and The Ataris, it goes without saying that Major League will break a whole new generation of hearts in much the same way the aforementioned were doing ten years ago. You would be forgiven for thinking that Major League were the headlining act tonight. They give their all and the crowd reciprocates. Fans of the band already sing back every line and clamour for the microphone each time it's offered by vocalist Nick Trask. If the job of the support band is to warm up the crowd then it's safe to say that Major League go above and beyond the call of duty and have no doubt converted a slew of new fans (myself included) nationwide.

The final support are Such Gold, part of a new generation of pop-punk bands who take as much influence from 90s emo bands such as The Juliana Theory and Christie Front Drive as they do Blink 182 or Green Day. That doesn't mean their show is an exercise in self-pity or pop-punk cliché. Their blend of hardcore inspired gang-chants coupled with melodic guitar parts whips the crowd in to a frenzy. As they're a band who have already established themselves, a fair few members of the crowd are obviously here to see Such Gold above the headliners. Circle pits form at least every other song and fans are drawn in with reckless abandon. 'Sycamore' is a particular highlight of their set and is spurred on by vociferous crowd reactions, much to the chagrin of a security guard who overtly and perhaps unnecessarily felt compelled to make his presence known. However, over-zealous security can't detract from the fact that Such Gold who, despite being fairly new at the game, come across like they've been doing this for years. Their mixture of hardcore and pop-punk might not be to everyone's taste but they were a perfect choice for tonight's main support and only just overshadowed by Major League's ebullience.

At 8.30 Funeral For A Friend take to the stage to riotous applause. Despite it being 6 years since the release of their most commercially successful album, Tales Don't Tell Themselves, Manchester's NQ is packed to the unusually low rafters, confirming once again that commercial success counts for little when your fan base is a loyal as FFAF's. Opening with long-standing favourite 'She Drove Me to Daytime Television' causes the most raucous response thus far. Choosing to omit the more melodic tracks from new album Conduit was a wise decision given the bands limited time-slot and the hardcore enthused elements of contemporary tracks such as 'The Distance' and 'Grey' slot in next to fan favourites such as 'Roses for the Dead' and 'You Want Romace?' as if they've always been there. Front-man Matt Davies keeps the crowd entertained between songs, even going so far as to cheekily ask the aforementioned over-zealous bouncer if the crowd could “start a circle pit around the entire venue?” to which he understandably declines. Penultimate song of the night is the band's début single and my personal favourite 'Juneau'. Finally hearing this song live, a decade after it's release is something really special for me, and the majority of the crowd too given their reactions. However, the song that receives the best reaction of the night however belongs to 'History', taken from 2005s Hours. Davies is barely audible over the crowd who sing back every lyric as if it was their last night on earth and as the closing chords ring out, there's not a person in the room who can leave tonight doubting the staying-power of a band once tarred with the emo brush.

Be that as it may, tonight wasn't without it's drawbacks. There were some minor issues with the sound quality across the board, this was particularly noticeable during FFAF's set which is a massive shame; this however can be attributed more to the location of the venues sound desk (the side of the stage) as opposed to the bands overall performance. In fact any complaints on tonight fall at the feet of the venue as opposed to the acts. 
NQ feels more like the club it is than a venue that plays host to some of the biggest bands of yesteryear and ending on a negative feels somewhat ill-fitting given the quality of the music on show tonight. Sure there were some songs which felt a little flat when compared to the singles, but that’s the perils you face when playing newer material live. All in all this was a solid show and one which cements FFAF's place as one of the top contemporary British bands. It doesn't matter whether they're headlining the Apollo or a backstreet dive such as NQ the passion and the heart that went in to their previous records is back with a vengeance and as long as Davies and co keep making music like they are doing, long may their hearts stay broken and permanently on their sleeve.