Funeral For A Friend have always had a reputation for great live shows and there was a buzz of expectation at the Welly on Friday night, April 19th, when they brought their tour to Hull, supported by Guildford hardcore five piece Polar and energetic stage diving local favourites The Colour Line for a show that did its level best to shake the building to its foundations – a powerful exhibition of post-hardcore at its best.
Since the release of 2003’s Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation, which saw them launch themselves fully formed upon the world and become ‘the most important band in Britain’ overnight, Bridgend’s finest have been through several changes of style as well as personnel, evincing a tendency to drift towards the more melodic end of the musical spectrum. Having parted company with drummer and screamer in chief Ryan Richards one might have expected that the trend would continue but that was not to be the case.
Their most recent album Conduit has taken the band back to their post-hardcore roots, with lead vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye extending his vocal style to encompass Funeral’s trademark aggressively unclean vocals and they brought their newly remade sound to Hull in spades for a show which showcased their new material while giving their fans a chance to hear old favourites once again.
New drummer Pat Murphy, formerly of Rise To Remain, seemed to have added some heavy metal inflections to the FFAF sound, but although that sound was louder and rawer than some recent versions have been, the band are much more than just cardboard cut out noise mongers and they still managed to incorporate some of the melodic qualities of 2005’s Hours into the set.
They’re also too long in the tooth to think that there is any merit in looking angsty and miserable on stage. According to Davies-Kreye, Conduit is an album about the experience of being in a band and if the lyrics are anything to go by that experience can be pretty miserable. But if playing is such a drag the band didn’t let in show on the night.
They roared through a high energy set with Davies-Kreye coordinating activity in the pit and there seemed to be a mismatch sometimes between the existential bleakness of the songs and the obvious pleasure the band took in performing – a pleasant change from some gigs where the headliners sometimes look as though only contractual obligation keeps them from heading home after fifteen minutes.
Kicking off with the title track “Conduit”, which looks back to an age of innocence and casual musicianship, and following with “Distance”, with its evocation of the hardships of van life, the set list took in “Roses For The Dead” and “Recovery” from Hours before heading back to Conduit for “Travelled”. As the opening lines, “I’m fucking sick / So sick and tired of coming back to these broken places,” rang out, it has to be said that actually they looked quite pleased about it. Maybe they’re feeling better.
The highlight of the evening was “History”, performed with suitable venom in celebration of the death of Margaret Thatcher and biggest cheers of the night were for the early hits “Juneau” and “Alvarez”. The evening ended with a rousing “Escape Artists Never Die” – a storming end to a great show.