When we last left Faith No More back in 2010/2011, it seemed their incredible reunion dubbed “The Second Coming” was at an end. The band played a smattering of final shows in Los Angeles and Santiago, Chile that seemed to put the perfect period on an incredible return from the band. The group even performed a dead-on cover of Barry White/The Manhattans “Let’s Kiss and Say Goodbye” in some of these shows that seemed to cement that everything was elegantly closing out.
And then, it didn’t really end. The group added a small amount of dates in South America in 2011 and a larger batch in Europe in 2012. An appearance at England’s British Summer Time Festival alongside Black Sabbath where several new songs were played showed the world what the band already knew, that the reunion wasn’t over after all. Not long later, the group announced that they were at work on their first album in 18 years. That soon-to-be-released album Sol Invictus is a fresh take on the band’s genre-less sound, one that already boasts what could be considered three hit worthy singles. On the first night of a three-night stand in Los Angeles, the band expertly blended the best of the first part of their career and a slew of killer new tracks.
All photos for mxdwn by Raymond Flotat
The band opened strong on recent single, “Motherfucker,” the first song from the band to feature a prominent vocal line from keyboardist Roddy Bottum. Lead singer Mike Patton joined in the fray wearing some kind of a bondage face strap, howling his part of the song’s dual chorus, “Hello Motherfucker / My lover / You saw it coming.” They dove deep into their early catalog pulling two from their career-defining The Real Thing album (“From Out of Nowhere” and “Epic”) one from their cult classic Angel Dust (“Caffeine”) and a smooth-jazz nocturne from King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime (“Evidence”). Even twenty-five years on, the crowd was elated to sing along to the driving, escalating pace of “From Out of Nowhere.” “Evidence” delivered on the careful nuance the group is capable of (though rarely gets credit for). Yet, it’s a testament to the group’s vast catalog of stellar songs that at this point they played “Epic,” a cathartic blast of rap-rock power, considering it could close just about any show they ever do.
The group dropped in another new song at this point, a nimble crisscross of ascending and descending melodies, led by bassist Billy Gould’s chugging bass and guitarist Jon Hudson’s simple riffs entitled “Sunny Side Up.” The next four songs simply went for the jugular, with all the force, edge and freight train energy the band had to offer. The incisive conciseness of “Get Out” demonstrated the value of a short-and-sweet idea. “Midlife Crisis,” on the other hand, anchored by Mike Bordin’s unforgettable drumline is an interlocking series of brilliant ideas that continually grows in excellence on to the last note. Most interestingly, at the song’s pinnacle of tension following the spaced-out Beastie Boys sampling bridge, the band stopped completely and the crowd refused to wait. Singing every word of, “Your perfect yes it’s true / but without me you’re only you / Your menstruated heart / isn’t bleeding enough for two,” while the band looked on. Another live rarity, the piano-fronted “Everything’s Ruined” followed upping the ante on impressive song construction. This was all capped off by the explosive fury of “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.”
They shifted gears from there playing their famous Commodores cover: the ballad and Sunday morning smile that is “Easy.” Patton called for a fan from the crowd to be brought on stage to temporarily play the part of the “gimp” (a gimp has curiously been a part of almost all publicity shots for the new album). While the fan was decked out in a leather mask the band collaboratively emitted Gregorian-style tone that sets the stage for Introduce Yourself-era song, “Spirit.” The band went long on the escalating reflection of “King For a Day,” taking the song’s decrescendo and closing refrain “Don’t let me die with that silly look in my eye” and ringing it out into repeating tones and feedback. The looping effects rang just long enough before guitarist Hudson bended out the opening notes of perhaps the band’s most straightforward hit, “Ashes to Ashes.” The set proper closed with the band’s outstanding new song “Superhero.” On this one, the song is balanced between an upbeat hard rock verse and a hypnotic piano line from Bottum while Patton intones “Leader of Men / get back in your cage / Will you be one of them?” No joke, this song could easily reside nestled amongst the best cuts from any phase of their career.
From there, the band did two quick encores, opting for three new songs and a knockdown cover of Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s In Love With You.” The first of the three new songs was the title track from the upcoming new album Sol Invictus, a short and sinister song that aims for quiet tension rather full-on release. The second was the subdued “Separation Anxiety,” building up steam on a motif of fast palm-muted guitars. The last of which, was the second encore and final song of the night. It was the first time ever that new song “Black Friday” was played live. This was unique for several reasons. First off, keyboardist Roddy Bottum played only acoustic guitar for this number. The song features mostly clean electric or acoustic segments, but then sporadically drops in distortion with a Patton howl intermittently for a few seconds at a time. Lastly, this might be the first song Faith No More has done in many years that will truly challenge their diehard fans (a feat far harder than it sounds given their affinity for eclectic music).
It’s rare that a reuniting band feels truly vital and necessary compared against the modern landscape. Sure, many such acts are welcomed back warmly, fans getting to hear old favorites likely played far too little in the act’s first round of existence. But, those reunions largely are a rehash of the past at best. Faith No More might just be one of the few exceptions where the returning band isn’t just a retread of former glory, yet something awesome and inspirational to behold. This could be the return of the badly needed pace car for all of forward thinking rock music everywhere. They are a challenging, uncompromising and constantly evolving champion that will stand high above a vast sea of cookie cutter banality. Hallelujah. Not a moment too soon.
From Out of Nowhere
Sunny Side Up
Mid Life Crisis
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Easy (Commodores cover)
King For a Day
Ashes to Ashes
This Guy’s in Love With You
All photos for mxdwn by Raymond Flotat