You could be forgiven
for thinking that FM were completing a 30 day and not 3-day tour
tonight. The opener, 'Wildside', sounded remarkably pedestrian and
somehow lacked the urgency of the album version. Contrast that with the
high energy encore and, in context, the band gradually - and thankfully
- found its momentum.
It's been a good year
for FM. A new album that successfully updated their sound whilst
remaining faithful to their melodic rock template, a surprise appearance
at Download, and some national radio airplay.
It is surprising that the band
didn't play more of the excellent 'Metropolis' omitting - for example -
the recent Radio 2 playlisted single. The setlist
brought into juxtaposition the commercially less successful more soulful/bluesy
stuff that they developed on the later (1990s) albums and the superb
radio friendly rockers that they did so well back in their early years.
This contrast was
evident in the encores of 'Frozen Heart', 'Bad Luck' and their update
of 'I Heard It through The Grapevine'. The latter - one of the better
versions you'll hear - emphasised that coursing through the genes of the
great Steve Overland is a soul blood brother's DNA.
Maybe it was just the
choice of material tonight that grated a little; it is clear that old-time fans will have
their own particular favourites (and requests). 'Only The Strong
Survive', 'Blood And Gasoline' and 'Closer To Heaven' are strong songs but veer towards fairly
predictable American AOR which may well be the reason for the band's
original demise. There were too many other bands on the block who could
steal their thunder (including Thunder) but more especially with the benefit of better management and
record label support.
With such a glorious
back catalogue, FM could afford to be a little more edgy in their
choice of material. 'Dangerous' even. And come to think of
it: where the hell was that track?
To paraphrase one of
the highlights tonight, it could now be 'All Or Nothing' again for
Of course, I'm a fan
who came to FM late, half-remembering them as a solid support artist
back in the late eighties but their appearance at this eighties rock
mecca - the Tivoli - must have brought back many memories. It was here
that I saw Magnum many times in their wilderness years in the early
1990s but by that time FM were already crunched.
Whilst gigs like this
bring out the closet FM fans who dust off their sometime discarded
picture discs and yellowed limited edition boxes, I wonder just how many of these
hardcore still exist? This means that FM have the new challenge of
converting a new generation of fans and at Download this year - in spite
of the unearthly midday slot - they managed to do this.
But risk taking is
all part of the musical process. For me, this was a superbly executed
professional show with some great songs and musicianship but it was the
brief moments of frisson like Jim Kirkpatrick's guitar on 'Metropolis' and the excellent guitar harmonies on 'Over You' that pushed it above the
In that sense. 'Wildside'
(by all accounts the curveball on 'Metropolis' that startled some
old-timers but pleased us harder, darker rockers) would have been much better in that glorious encore, the
band's head of steam - and the crowd - well and truly worked up by then.
Face To Face/ That Girl /Don't Stop/ Only The Strong Survive / Blood &
Gasoline/Hollow Metropolis/ Over You/Flamingo Road/Closer To Heaven/All
Or Nothing/ Other Side Of Midnight/Burning My Heart Down/American Girls
Heart/Bad Luck/I Heard It Through The Grapevine