Unlike paintings or sculptures or films, music presents a unique chance for artist and audience to connect face to face. The success or failure of a concert hinges on that connection, something that Faith No More’s show at Merriweather Post Pavilion on August 2 provided a glaring example of.
Having reformed in 2009 after 10 years apart and touring sporadically since, Faith No More started off the show as if they had never left, wading into a powerful version of “The Real Thing” before slamming through a solid half hour of some of their strongest material. Lead singer Mike Patton’s vocals were in top form, the thudding rhythm section of Billy Gould and Mike Bordin were locked in, and keyboardist Roddy Bottum and current guitarist Jon Hudson provided the deliciously singular hooks and melodies that have defined Faith No More’s unique sound.
But this initial burst of momentum eventually petered out, for reasons that were not entirely obvious: the band seemed comfortable and the playing was still solid. By the end of the main set, the energy in the venue had dipped noticeably, to the point that keyboardist Roddy Bottum actually asked the crowd, “Are we connecting?”
Maybe Bottum was worried that the docile stage setup, complete with flower baskets and the band dressed in all white, was too disconcerting or tame or confusing for the audience. Maybe he was concerned that songs from the band’s 2015 release Sol Invictus were not going over as well as those from their “classic” late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s period. Maybe he was worried they had been upstaged by Dennis Lyxzén, lead singer for show opener Refused, who spent his band’s entire set pulling out every rock star move in the book (dancing, shuffling, throwing the mic, at one point even wading into and through the pit to sing from within the crowd), to enormous success.
Nevertheless, once the connection between band and audience had been severed, it was gone. Even the encore, featuring the first performance of the power ballad “RV” in 20 years, disappointingly failed to bring it back. People left the show satisfied, but not energized.
And maybe that’s our fault, for expecting the band to rekindle some feeling of nostalgia that would have made the show epic (pun intended) instead of just ok. The audience was ready to revert to their youth and channel the kinetic energy that the band’s music had inspired, but the band refused to pander or settle for clichés (such as playing “Epic” as the show closer). Faith No More should be applauded for trying to earnestly re-establish themselves, even if their quirky, insouciant approach made it tough for band or audience to truly connect. Ultimately, blame for this failure lies with both performer and audience. Patton sang it best: “Without me, you’re only you.”
- The Real Thing
- Land of Sunshine
- Sunny Side Up
- Last Cup of Sorrow
- Midlife Crisis (with Boz Scaggs – “Lowdown” interlude)
- A Small Victory
- The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
- Easy (Commodores cover)
- Separation Anxiety
- Ashes to Ashes
- Rise of the Fall
- Just a Man
All I wanted to hear was one moment. That breakdown at about the 2 minute mark of “Shout Me Out.” You know, where the song turns from mid-tempo groove into frantic headbanger. That point where I could lose my shit and feel the simmering energy in the venue boiling over. So that whenever I listened to that song again, I would remember that moment, that excitement, that feeling, that one thing I walk away from the best shows with.
And it didn’t happen. No real buzz. No amazement. No peak.
Instead, what I ended up walking away from TV on the Radio’s show at Echostage on May 19 with was a palpable sense of disappointment. Sure, it was a good show. There were moments, flickers when the crowd got going. The highs were most definitely high: “Wolf Like Me” got a huge reception, and it would be impossible to resist “Staring at the Sun.” But nothing rose to that ecstatic level of energy and excitement that makes a truly great show indelible.
Maybe it can be blamed on a set list consisting primarily of “new” songs from their 2014 album, Seeds. Maybe it was the fact that the Tuesday night show ended after barely an hour had passed. Maybe it was because opening band, Japanese import Bo Ningen, had filled their set with so much posturing and rock star clichés that TV on the Radio, despite the manic stylings from lead singer Tunde Adebimpe, had nowhere to go energy-wise but down.
Or maybe it was because they didn’t even play the song.
- Golden Age
- Happy Idiot
- Could You
- Wolf Like Me
- Careful You
- Blues From Down Here
- A Method
- Young Liars
- Staring at the Sun