This was to be the first of three gigs in a week but Dave Grohl’s broken leg put paid to that.
I generally avoid reformed bands especially if I saw them in their pomp first time round. I saw Black Sabbath last summer (yeah I know) and Faith No More were on the support line up. They appeared at 4pm in a sunny Hyde Park and went down phenomenally well. Their break hadn’t dulled their edge and when I saw that they were touring a new album I thought, give it a go. It was only a couple of days ago that I clicked that The Pop Group were supporting.
The Pop Group had split up before I was old enough to appreciate them. I was aware of their influence and also of the group’s that their members had propagated and been a part of (the Slits, Rip Rig & Panic (begatting Neneh Cherry), Pigbag, Public Image Limited). Nick Cave said of their vocalist Mark Stewart that he “changed everything.” You can hear them in their contemporaries (Gang of Four, Orange Juice), through their local associates in Bristol (Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead) and ultimately to the present day (Franz Ferdinand).
Their mixture of abrasive funk guitars, dub sensibility and socially observant lyrics launched numerous post punk bands. They split in 1981 after two albums. Everyone thought that was it. The members continued to produce interesting and compelling work. Then out of the blue, they reformed in 2010 and a new album “Citizen Zombie” was released in February of this year.
The material was a mix of old and new with all underpinned by the tense rhythmic playing and the charismatic proclamations of Mark Stewart. The commentary on consumer society has become more relevant in thirty odd years since the first recordings were made. We need far more of this type of stuff in 2015, not less. Lord only knows how Mark Stewart has managed to control his outrage during the Pop Group hiatus but he was in fine fettle at the Roundhouse, just down the road from where he used to watch the Clash rehearse.
The choice of The Pop Group was an odd one for much of Faith No More’s fanbase who grew up with the hits in the 90’s but it reflected Mike Patton and Co’s desire to take the road less traveled. Unfortunately the venue was only a third full for much of the support set and the intensity of The Pop Group’s performance was somewhat diluted as a result. As with many bands, one yearned for seeing them in a smaller venue playing to a “home” crowd.
Which is curious, as I felt the opposite about Faith No More to some extent. When I saw them supporting Sabbath, it was closer to a greatest hits set that easily won over a crowd that was just the right side of neutral. At the Roundhouse (with a crowd drawn from solely their fanbase), the band moved towards a more album based setlist and as a result I felt the crowd were slightly muted. Of course, “Epic” and “Midlife Crisis” in particular were rousing singalongs. (Jump to 2:20 in this clip to here the band break into Boz Scagg’s “Lowdown”).
Some of the more furious hardcore tracks such as “The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies” and “Digging The Grave”, whilst being fascinating, raw and visceral left the crowd a little flat. This being the case though, the new material blended seemlessly with old. In particular “Matador” grew with a brooding sense of bolero-esque drama and “Superhero” carried the melodies and punch of the “Real Thing” era.
The band were all in excellent form. “Evidence” was a particular example of this with the “Miss You” Stones vibe that contrasted with the rawer surrounding material. It illustrated how Mike Patton is three vocalists in one. He has his characterful baritone, his razor sharp rap style and his death metal growl. He bounced around like a prize fighter, ready to enter the fray.
The stage presentation added to the sense of drama. With everything and everyone clad in white with some rather fetching floral displays, the use of colour wash lighting simply but successfully altered the backdrop from song to song. There was also a guy in a gimp costume who did as Patton commanded for the opening song and encores. Not sure what is brought to the party or even if it was a party that I wanted to go to.
So two diverse and reformed bands who are still creating work that stands up to their canon – and neither compromising to the crowd’s expectations.
Some great photos of the gig here
Setlists The Pop Group
- Thief Of Fire
- Citizen Zombie
- She Is Beyond Good and Evil
- Shadow Child
- We Are All Prostitutes
- Nowhere Girl
- St. Outrageous
- We Are Time
Faith No More
- Be Aggressive
- Black Friday
- Midlife Crisis
- The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies
- Easy (Commodores Cover)
- Separation Anxiety
- Last Cup Of Sorrow
- Digging The Grave
- Ashes To Ashes
- Sol Invictus
- Everything’s Ruined
- We Care A Lot