Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Alex Peace
In some ways, this was a bit of an odd date. Tied in with FM’s appearance at the Steelhouse Festival, under normal circumstances you would have thought it was a warm-up for the festival date, as with Magnum playing the Robin the previous week, whereas this was actually the day after the Steelhouse show. Whatever the circumstances, with this show being one of the few FM have played since their triumphant UK tour in the Spring, they sold out the River Rooms, and despite the rain outside, it was a hot and muggy River Rooms on the night.
Former Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson played a highly enjoyable 40 minute acoustic support slot, including his own solo material as well as some Little Angels’ songs, including an impassioned ‘Don’t Prey For Me’. At one stage he brought out a fan with whom he’d been in contact on Facebook to sing a duet, and all in all the whole set went down really well and was the perfect warm up for the main event.
FM’s show at Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms last March is securely fixed on my short list as one of the best of gigs of 2013 so far, and this was dangerously near to reaching the same heights. Maybe this was spoiled slightly by that curse of the modern age, people who pay to see a band just so they can talk at the top of their voices, but the band themselves were at the top of their game, showing exactly why they’re at the absolute peak of UK AOR. They’d changed the set list only slightly from the spring tour, dropping the sole Rockville 2 track played in the previous set-list and replacing it with an absolutely superb ‘Closer to Heaven,’ with Steve Overland singing his socks off, but somehow, with various tweaks to arrangements and intros, the set still sounded fresh and there was never any feeling of staleness or being repetitive.
With the exception of ‘Closer to Heaven’, the tracks from the post-reunion albums and main set closer ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’, this set was dominated by the ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’ albums, making it slightly surprising that they didn’t play more from the latest album, ‘Rockville’, the only ones played on the night being set opener ‘Tough Love’ and the magnificent ‘Crosstown Train’, and no sign of the latest single ‘Story Of My Life’. It’s understandable that they should give the fans the songs they most want to hear, but ‘Rockville’ is such a fine album, I would have hoped to hear more from it. Having said that, you really can’t argue with most of the songs that were played tonight, much less how well they were played. The band were as tight as the proverbial, showing the value of the touring they’ve done this year, and as ever, Steve Overland was in magnificent form, that voice just hitting the spot every single time. One thing that’s not often remarked on is that, as well as his almost peerless vocals, he’s a very capable guitarist, as well. While he’s quite content to let Jim Kirkpatrick have the spotlight a lot of the time, he more than holds in his own in the twin guitar parts that feature in a lot of FM’s material, a perfect example being ‘Over You’.
As for the crowd packed into the River Rooms, they played their own part in making this such a memorable show. They were behind the band from the first notes of the ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’ intro tape and needed absolutely no encouragement to raise their voices at every opportunity. The chorus of the second song in the set, ‘I Belong to the Night’ almost took the roof off, and things built up from there, with the band seeming to be having nearly as good time as the crowd were. All in all, an almost faultless gig, by the band who are still at the very peak of British melodic rock.
The band have some one-off shows booked over the winter, including the Planet Rockstock festival in Norfolk in December, but the news that FM have been included on what looks to be THE melodic rock tour of 2014, the triple bill with Foreigner and Europe, shows how much their star is in the ascendant at the moment. That tour includes a date at Nottingham Royal centre on April 7th and finishes at Wolverhampton Civic on April 15. An absolute must.
1. Tough Love
2. I Belong To The Night
3. That Girl
4. Don’t Stop
5. Love Lies Dying
6. Hot Wired
8. Face To Face
9. Closer to heaven
10. Crosstown Train
12. Over you
13. Burning My Heart Down
14. Does It Feel Like Love
15. Bad Luck
16. Heard it Through the Grapevine
17. Frozen Heart
18. The Other Side of Midnight
See more of Alex’s photos here;