[sic] Magazine

Faith No More – Brixton Academy – 10 June 2009

(Mike) Patton has more artistic integrity than almost anyone else on the planet. He’s always followed his own muse, in whatever bizarre directions it has gone, from the almost unlistenable challenges of Fantomas, made it clear that whatever else there was, Mike Patton was both on a determined journey to create interesting, challenging music that above all, did not suck. Never bland, never dull, never lacking in ideas. If there was an easy way or a hard way, Patton would always choose the most intriguing way with little regard for how to get fat, rich, and lazy off it. If money is all you want, then that’s what you can have, but then that will be all you have.

So if Faith No More were to reform, then you can be sure, it would not be just for money. It would have to be awesome or not at all. Death or glory. Integrity was one of the things that made Faith No More so special in the sludge that surrounded them.

And on the basis of tonight’s show, FNM’s modestly titled ‘Second Coming’ tour will be nothing but glory. A reminder to lesser imitators how it is done. With the opening notes of ‘Land of Sunshine’, all those bands that list FNM as influences are instantly obsolete and outclassed. Yes, these songs are old. But age is no guide to quality.


Reunion. Reformation. Ugly words. Images of reprocessed facsimiles of the past thrown together by money and a recession-hit pension fund to drag their sorry asses out once more into the monkey cage to debase and trade off the memory with a sort-of recreation that isn’t quite as good. Remake. A Sequel. That’s what some of these reunions are; chasing the law of diminishing returns for cash.

And in this information-saturated age, the reality is that nothing is secret anymore. There’s little surprise in what comes next, as if it happened somewhere else in the world, everyone with half a mind will know. Think of a concert as a film that shows in only one city a night: after the first screening the mystery and wonder of the new is lost.

This, being the first Faith No More show in 11 years, 2 months and 2 days, has none of that. All of this is, to a large extent, new. Faith No More enjoyed a brief spurt of popularity on the back of a couple of accessible fluke hits in form of ‘Epic’, ‘We Care A Lot’ and ‘Mid Life Crisis’, before fickle fashion changed when Oasis formed. Throughout all that mind you, FNM cut a determined path: ultimately undermined when Ozzy Osborne stole the drummer Mike Bordin for a fat wage.


Cutting across many genres, the only thing you could say with any certainty is that you didn’t know what was coming next – be it a cover version of an old movie theme, a country & western ramble, or a death metal interlude. Often in the same song. (These tendencies were later taken to ludicrous, and absurd extremes by frontman Mike Patton’s other bands: the diverse Mr Bungle, and Fantomas – who specialised in jazz-metal with wildly fluctuating tempos at unpredictable intervals).

Faith No More’s legendarily diverse influences and personalities resulted in the bands unique, odd sound. It also tore them apart with clashes of direction. No band compromised more – or less. Every note was hard won. Their return then, was wildly unexpected and highly anticipated by the few that have long memories.

In traditional style, expect the unexpected. Opening with a lounge-singer style version of Peaches And Herb’s ‘Reunited’, FNM confounded expectations and kept going. There was no sign of expected crowd pleasers ‘We Care A Lot’, ‘A Small Victory’, ‘Richochet’, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, ‘Falling To Pieces’, et al. Yes, some hits were present and correct – and greeted as long lost family members. But also, and more than that, there was no sense that this was anything other than a determined attempt to live up to, and possibly succeed, the legacy.

Care a lot

Sure, I’ve seen, lazy, crap reformations. Aging, Fat, bald, tuneless yelps by protobands half made up of tribute acts and the rest by jobbing session hacks. I was embarrassed just being there, let alone for the bands themselves gamely trying to pretend they had even the slightest hint of relevancy.

Tonight? Tonight Faith No More knocked all doubts straight out of the park. Made of the final original line up of the band – no replacement salaried nobodies here – the band had returned; not reformed, but reunited. And whilst the t-shirts may have faded and the records not been played and the memories grown old, in a second everything comes back. And tonight they are better than ever.

As if preserved in amber, Faith No More have hardly aged. There are flecks of grey in the drummers beard, and the guitarist has a goatee: aside from that, everything is as it was. The songs sound as sharp, and committed with as much passion as ever. Mike Patton throws himself around the stage with the same vigour he did 20 years ago – a rag doll possessed by music, listening intently, ears buried in a feedback bin, playing a loudhailer as if it were a symphony of looped feedback. Mike Bordin pounds the drums with a passion I haven’t seen in 17 years. A few years ago I caught him playing drums for Ozzy, and he looked 1% as bothered then as he did last night. John Hudson on guitar meanwhile seemed lost in his own world. Bill Gould bouncing like a demented loon. Roddy Bottum fierce in concentration: after all, it’s Faith No More’s first day back at work this millennia.


Never have I seen a reunion quite so keenly anticipated. I’ve never known quite so many people I know at one gig, nor any gig where so many people I mentioned it to were desperate for a ticket, no so many varied accents. One man in an American accent – clearly having flown over just for the gig – asked for ‘One Of Everything’ at the T-shirt stall. There was someone here who’d flown all the way from Argentina.

Some bands, its just a gig. Another day at the office. Not this. The songs weren’t just as good as they had ever been; they were better. Having matured like a fine wine, the crowd as one in some kind of mixture of adoration and exorcism.

The choice of songs was seemingly perverse: ‘Chinese Arithmetic’ and ‘Mark Bowen’, both from their pre-fame records, sorted out the boys from the men. Some stood unknowing, others lost in a reverie. And despite some obvious easy hits missing, it never felt as if the band were being deliberately obtuse until the final encore which saw a 1995 b-side Bee Gees cover, and the last original song they ever released: the majestic, glacial ‘Pristina’ which – unfortunately – saw Brixton slightly baffled. If anything took the air out of their return, it was that almost everyone was wondering when ‘We Care A Lot’ was going to be played until it dawned that it was never going to appear. Still, Faith No More never did what you wanted, and that’s what made them so damn brilliant.


Thankfully, the show never felt like a nostalgic museum visit. Songs from the latter-period albums ‘King For A Day’ and ‘Album of The Year’ were sprinkled liberally through the set, and received as keenly as anything else. I never thought they’d bring back ‘Cuckoo For Caca’, let alone giggle at the perversity of 4,000 people chanting ‘SHIT LIVES FOREVER!’. In a way, these songs were a religion of our adolescence: words became philosophy, became warnings, became mantras, designs for life. The wonderful moment of extended suspense when ‘Mid Life Crisis’ paused mid-chorus – wonderfully subverted by a small 8 bar snatch of an ancient East 17 song as the crowd yelled back the words on their own – showed that these songs, art, culture, everything, is as important to human survival as food and water.

And it was no mere faithful recital: ‘Malpractice’ paced like an angry snarling dog, before morphing mid bar into a re-arranged, altered, crushing ‘Jizzlobber’. There’s something about the combination of these biting guitars, tribal, military drum tattoos, and screamed vocals that by itself, makes life better.

‘Caffeine’ was a cruel mockery of our younger selves – ‘relax, it’s just a phase, you’ll grow out of it’. 20 years later, and we haven’t grown out of it. If it’s a phase, then life itself is just a phase.

Band finish

Invention isn’t merely there: A silly revamping of ‘Chariots Of Fire’ turns effortlessly into the under-rated ‘Stripsearch’. Not that you would know it is under-rated on tonight’s reception. This song’s a long lost relative, a lover separated by oceans and decades returned with joy and love. That said, as the band pound through – and Patton clearly relishes the epiphany of ‘Just A Man’ – there is a sense that even despite the strength, and passion of the performance, that Faith No More are slightly losing their audience by refusing to play ‘We Care A Lot’.

At the end of it, this is a resurrection, a rebirth, and one of the very few that is at very least so far the equal of the first incarnation. Tonight Faith No More were at least as good as ever, if not better. The Real Thing. That Perfect Moment. The Very Essence Of Their Soul. Or, perhaps, as I would prefer to think of it, a historic night. Faith No More always set the bar high. Last night, they raised it a little further. I’m normally not quite so stunned into inarticulacy, but if there were one word, then that word would be AWESOME



For more from Mark please visit The Mark Reed website