Heavy metal is generally not seen as a smooth or classy genre. There’s a lot of grunting, screaming and throwing your body into people. Yet when Faith No More stroll onto the stage of the O2 Academy dressed all in white and surrounded by flowers, there is definitely an air of sophistication to proceedings. It’s hard to imagine that just the night before this band was playing in front of the muddy denizens of Download festival. They are far too clean.
Before that we have The Pop Group kicking things off, another band who have recently come back together. Having made their name in the late 1970s, a glance around the crowd suggests a lot of attendees have no idea who they are, myself included and they quickly go to work trying to change that. Opening with ‘We Are All Prostitutes’, a shifting and complicated rock song full of angular edges, they get off to a good start. The sound isn’t always kind to them, but they manage to get past that and new tracks like ‘Citizen Zombie’ sound good to this ear. The star of their post punk is vocalist Mark Stewart, who has one hell of a howl. His strange dad dancing would be embarrassing in most situations, but actually fits nicely with the disjointed sound The Pop Group are peddling. If you missed this lot first time round, get on it now.
As already mentioned, Faith No More are one of the classier bands we have. They may also be one of the best. ‘Motherfucker’ kicks things into gear, a track that by itself feels a bit like an introduction, works perfectly in that role here. However, it’s when they leap into ‘Land of Sunshine’ that things really kick off. Jon Hudson’s guitar teasing out that instantly recognisable opening is greeted by a roar as Patton’s unhinged laugh bellows out, like the deranged ring master he is. Whether he’s challenging members of the crowd to a fight, offering to show them his penis or gesturing aggressively at people to put their camera phones away, you never want to take your eyes off him. And that is before you get to the voice.
For what a voice it is. Not only can Patton leap between the smooth elegance of that ‘Easy’ cover to the rap heavy ‘Midlife Crisis’ to the whispered intensity of ‘Separation Anxiety’, but he does them all better than people who have been perfecting those styles for years. You genuinely believe that you could place Mike Patton in nearly any band in the world and he would make them better. It does of course help that he is backed up by a band as good as they are. Mike Bordin is relentless behind the drums, with roadies running on to hydrate him mid song and Hudson’s riffs are near perfect. In 2015 Faith No More may not be quite as svelte in those white outfits as they once were, (and by the end of the set they are basically see through from the amount of sweat spilled) but they are still one hell of a band.
Then there are those songs and what songs they are. Whether it’s ‘Epic’, ‘Midlife Crisis’ or newer material like ‘Matador’ and ‘Superhero’, they all sound perfect. They are also full of more huge choruses and erratic breakdowns than even the most greedy of fans could ask for. This is on the whole a greatest hits set and the new stuff is definitely greeted by less enthusiasm. However, those songs don’t sound out-of-place on this set list and that alone is a huge achievement.
This was the first time I’d seen Faith No More live and if you hadn’t figured it out I’m a bit of a fan. These guys are a class apart from their peers and twenty years after the release of their first album they are still proving that to be the case. Sol Invictus is already one of the albums of the year and this will without a doubt be one of the shows, thank god for Faith No More.