FM + Romeos’ Daughter and Deborah Bonham Band, @ Shepherds Bush Empire – March 10th, 2012


Review by Paul Quinton

When FM put together a mini-tour of three dates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their debut album ‘Indiscreet’, the Midlands was completely left off the schedule, with shows arranged only in Glasgow, Manchester and London. So it was off to Shepherd’s Bush for this particular fan to see the latest chapter in the band’s career, which, after their reunion in 2007, seems to have given the band more success than they ever had before.

Although the gig as a whole eventually looked fairly close to selling out, it was a fairly sparse crowd that greeted Deborah Bonham and her band. There’s no denying she has a fine voice, but her band, although competent enough, didn’t really have enough presence to get the crowd involved in the set. Perhaps it didn’t help that they only played material from their new album in the short set, rather than something more familiar, so maybe her show at The Robin supporting Nazareth later this month will be a better showcase for them.

Romeo’s Daughter reunited for the same Firefest show that brought FM back together, and have seemed to be FM’s perennial support since then. They’ve finally recorded and released their first album, ‘Rapture,’ since reforming, and naturally featured songs from it in their set, including the rocky ‘Keep Walking’ and a highly promising power ballad, ‘Bittersweet,’ but it was the older material that got the crowd going, including a great rendition of ‘Velvet Touch’, the terrific ballad ‘Cry Myself To Sleep’ and finishing with an awesome ‘Wild Child’. I don’t think the venue helped the band generate any atmosphere, but they worked very hard to win the crowd over and got a really good response. Leigh Matty is a fine singer and has a great stage presence, and overall, this is a pretty good British melodic rock band who really should gig more often to give more people a chance to see how good they are.

Apart from being their debut album, ‘Indiscreet’ is probably one of the best melodic rocks albums by a British band ever, and FM really couldn’t go wrong with a set that featured the whole album. The venue had filled up nicely, and after a brief  ‘Pink Panther’ intro tape (no doubt a humorous reference to the pink suit bassist Merv Goldsworthy wore back in the day), as promised, the first part of the show was the playing of ‘Indiscreet’, although they choose to use the US release running order, as it apparently flows better, beginning with ‘That Girl’. Seeing it performed live like this only showed what a terrific album it is, and with the band on cracking form, it wasn’t long before the gig became one of the very best of 2012 so far.

The sound took a couple of songs to settle down, but by the time they got to ‘Love Lies Dying’, someone had tweaked something and we had a brilliant gig on our hands. There was some dispute as to whether some of this material had aver been played live before, particularly ‘Hot Wired’ and ‘Love Lies Dying’, (although I’m positive I saw the band play Hot Wired at the Irish Centre in Digbeth in 1988!), but they worked so well on the night, I’m sure it won’t be the last time we hear them, Hot Wired in particular was absolutely mesmerising. The whole thing went down a storm and it was awhile before the clapping subsided and the band could carry on with the rest of the set.

The second half of the show was almost all songs from the next part of the band’s career, although they also played Dangerous, an old track most recently included on the ‘Wildside’ EP. Again there were some songs rarely, if ever, played live, including a storming Let Love Be The Leader and Does It feel Like Love, with some brilliant vocals from Steve Overland, one of the UKs best and most underrated singers. Bad Luck finally got the majority of the crowd up, there was an encore of Hot Legs, which trampled all over Rod Stewart’s original, and one of the best gigs of 2012 so far was over.

For me, there really was only one criticism you could make of the show, and that was solely down to the venue. It’s not the first time I’d been there, but this was the first time the stalls had been seated, which did nothing to help the atmosphere, and while I don’t want to get into the stereotypes about London audiences, there was a large part of the balcony who never really seemed to get into the show. Despite this it was an absolutely majestic gig, by a band I’m quite prepared to argue are the UK’s best ever melodic rock band. They’ll hopefully be touring new material later in 2012, but this time let’s hope they remember where the Midlands is.