Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rich Ward
The first date on FM’s series of dates celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their debut album, Indiscreet, an album that will always be in the conversation whenever the subject of the UK’s best ever melodic rock album is debated, was at the attractive Parr Hall in Warrington.
There was already a healthy queue outside the venue when the doors opened, and by the time Walsall’s finest, Stone Broken, hit the stage, the venue was starting to fill up pretty impressively. It can’t have been easy for the band, being third on the bill to such well-known bands, appearing to have to work with someone else’s drumkit and having some fairly restricted stage space, they were also done very few favours with the sound, with Rich Moss’ vocals often being buried by the drums, and you could argue that their more modern rock may have been a little at odds with the other bands on the bill, but as an example of making the most of any opportunity to impress, this was well-nigh perfect. They were introduced by Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony as part of the ‘future of rock’, which is some billing to have to live up to, but as soon as the band got stuck into songs like opener ‘Stay All Night’ and ‘Let Me Go’, you could see his point. They even had the confidence to do a spot of Danny Bowes style audience participation, dividing the crowd down the middle for some competitive singing. Their new album is due out on the hugely influential rock label Frontiers in the New Year, and you should take the chance to catch them now, so in future you’ll be able to tell all your friends that you saw them before they were big, because big is what they will become.
Dare were greeted like conquering heroes by the crowd, still a hugely popular band who don’t get the chance to play that often in the UK, but they didn’t let their followers down, as they delivered a quality set, even if they were restricted to only 40 minutes stage time. Unfortunately a lot of the set was marred by the same sound problems as Stone Broken suffered, with Darren Wharton’s vocals often submerged beneath the drums. On a more positive note, though, they seemed well up for this gig, and had put together a brilliantly played set. I should also add that it’s always good to see Vinnie Burns play, he’s one of our most unheralded guitarists, and he played some beautiful stuff in this set.
The early part of their set included songs from across their career and included a new song, ‘Home’, from their latest album, Sacred Ground, and if this segment included some of their more introspective and atmospheric songs, the quicker tempo of ‘Don’t Need A Reason’ gave the set an extra edge and set things up nicely for a sequence of songs from their debut album, Out Of The Silence, which remains probably their defining work. This began with a terrific ‘Abandon’, which lifted the crowd even more, and continued with ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Rain Dance’, before an emotional ‘King Of Spades’ brought the set to a close, with the crowd in full voice. If the first half of the set were comparatively restrained, the second half showed what a good band Dare can be, and they had a huge reception when they left the stage.
If you’re at all superstitious, please disregard the next few words, but FM seem to be one of those bands that appear to be genetically incapable of playing a bad show. Some gigs may slip slightly from the elevated standards they set themselves, but in terms of playing, and putting together sets that balance their old and new material, they seem to hit the mark every time they take the stage. As with most of their recent gigs, they opened with the hard hitting ‘Digging Up Dirt’, with the individual members making their own entrances and the first thing to note was that the sound was much improved over the early part of the evening; not, I must emphasise, due to anything other than the fact that Pete Jupp’s kit had its own mic set up which seemed to make it easier to mix, but the overall sound was also much clearer than earlier.
Although this was billed as the first show on the ‘Indiscreet 30’ tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of their immaculate debut album, this was the only show on the tour where they wouldn’t be playing the album in full, and the set seemed to be largely the same one as on their ‘Heroes and Villains’ shows earlier in the year, including a couple of songs that aren’t played very often. It was great to hear ‘Let Love Be The Leader’ again, a non-album single from the ‘Indiscreet’ sessions, not to mention ‘Someday’ (You’ll Come Running)’, a song from Tough It Out that Steve Overland confesses he’s not that fond of, although he knows it’s a fan favourite, and ‘All or Nothing’, a belter from the Aphrodisiac. Perhaps acknowledging that their debut would get its share of exposure on the other dates, Indiscreet tracks weren’t featured heavily in the main set, with only four of them played and the ‘hit’, ‘Frozen Heart’ coming five songs in, although it brought the house down, as it usually does, followed by a great ‘Love Lies Dying’, with a terrific solo from Jim Kirkpatrick.
It’s a sign of how much great material the band has put together over its career that they can leave recent songs as brilliant and successful as ‘Crosstown Train’ and ‘Hollow’, but nobody appeared to be complaining when they ended the set with a salvo from their equally good second album, Tough It Out, bringing the 75 minute main set to an end, and then increasing the Indiscreet quota with a further two songs in the the three song encore. After an emotional and heartfelt ‘Story of My Life’, sung solo by Overland accompanied only by Jem Davis on piano, the band brought the set to a glorious conclusion with ‘The Other Side of Midnight’ and ‘American Girls’, bringing an absolutely great night of music to a close. As ever, FM played a great set, building up even more anticipation for the tour to come.
In a way it’s a shame that this gig was a one off, as even allowing for the logistical issues, it deserved to be seen around the country and could surely have been the basis of successful tour. In the meantime, if you get the chance to see any of these bands, take it. You’ll thank yourself afterwards.