Review by Paul Quinton
This was one of a short series of dates in the UK prior to FM touring Europe with The Electric Boys and headlining one night at the Planet Rockstock festival in Wales. As with their previous show at this venue, last year, there was a pretty healthy turnout in the River Rooms for the gig.
Support on this series of dates came from our esteemed Editor-in-Chief’s beloved Vega, who delivered a solid 40 minute set and went down really well with the crowd. The one thing I’ve never been able to get with Vega is what might set them apart from any number of bands of a similar stature. There’s nothing at all wrong with the songs, and the keyboard and twin guitar line-up gives them just the right amount of oomph, to use the technical term, but there’s a certain something that causes them to fall short of the line that separates them from being a bit more special. They work hard on stage, vocalist Nick Workman especially gives it his all, even leaving the stage at one point to sing in the middle of the crowd, the band play well, songs like ‘Stereo Messiah’ and set closer ‘Hands In The Air’ should push all the right buttons, but compared to some other bands around at the moment, there always seems to be a little star quality missing, a little bit of flash. It was a solid, workmanlike set (sorry!) but if you like a little bit of sparkle in your melodic rock, nothing more than that.
And so to FM who, like good wine, seem to get better and better with age. Of course, it was perhaps a little too optimistic to expect them to reach the heights of the spectacularly good show they played at The Robin in May, but at times this was just as good. Opening with ‘Digging Up The Dirt’ the opening track from the most recent album, Heroes and Villains, they had the crowd in their hands from the off. The opening part was predominantly older songs, each greeted with a roar of approval from the crowd. There was an early appearance of one of the big ballads that the band does so well, ‘Closer To Heaven’, showing that while Steve Overland is a sublime singer, he’s no slouch with the guitar either. This was emphasised further when the more up-tempo, ‘Let Love Be The Leader’ followed, which had some quality harmony guitar work between Overland and Jim Kirkpatrick.
It was interesting that the band paced the set in such a way that there was a solid block of music in the middle of the set that has been recorded since the band reformed. Every FM fan will always want to hear the Indiscreet and Tough It Out songs, but some of the newer ones are of an equally high quality. If they need another new single to push the latest album, for example, ‘Life Is A Highway’ would be a perfect choice and ‘Crosstown Train’ sounds better and better every time you hear it. Even when returning to the back catalogue, they still managed to surprise, playing ‘All Or Nothing’ for the first time on this tour at this gig, and by immediately balancing the sequence of newer music with the return of the mighty ballad ‘Frozen Heart’ to the set for the first time for a while, before a they hit the home straight with a string of old favourites.
One thing that makes the band such a good live experience is that the band so obviously seem to be having the time of their lives on stage, always laughing and egging each other on and reacting with the crowd and this communicates itself to the audience, creating a real bond between band and fan.
The main set ended with an exuberant ‘Bad Luck’ and the inevitable encores began with Jem Davis playing a brief piano solo before accompanying Steve Overland on ‘The Story Of My Life’, and eventually being joined by the band for the big finish. Then it was a tumultuous ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ to finish, with the crowd in full voice. Before the tour, the band posted on Facebook looking back over the years since they got back together and everything they’ve achieved. As a fan, I’m thrilled for the success they’ve had in the last few years, but equally, I think it’s time that we just think of them as a band, rather than as being ‘reformed’ or ‘reunited’, and so as a band, my honest opinion is that currently they’re at the top of their game and still look almost incapable of playing a bad gig. This was a great show, and at the moment, seeing this band live is something I just can’t get enough of.