The End of an Aura: Forever FFaF
Guest post by Ronnie McCluskey
Last night, I watched one of my favourite bands take to the stage for the last time.
Funeral For a Friend have been almost singularly responsible for getting me through some dark times in my life, a role they’ve doubtless fulfilled for many diehards battling private torment and aural damage, the latter caused by – what else? – listening too much, and too loudly, to FFaF.
There are perhaps only a handful of musicians who can affect their listeners as deeply as Funeral For a Friend. In my personal Mount Rushmore of music, Matthew and the boys morphed into monoliths long ago. So it was with a heavy heart that I entered Glasgow’s ABC to watch the Welsh rockers play their seminal 2005 album ‘Hours’, a record which ranks alongside their very best (they play debut ‘Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation’ later tonight (April 11), the double header part of a farewell tour cheekily dubbed ‘Last Chance to Dance’).
I’d been under the impression the band would play their debut on the first night of this Glasgow stint. Fully geared up to hear CDADIC, I was pleasantly surprised to discover I’d gotten it wrong, the quintet taking to the stage and ripping into an anthemic performance of All the Rage.
It was clear from the get-go that Matthew’s voice wasn’t operating at full capacity, but that’s an obvious corollary of giving yourself over to these songs night after night. All that mattered was that the energy was high, the instruments sounded incredible and the crowd were entertained; indeed, the mic was frequently thrust towards the baying faithful, each entreaty given a resounding response. One song in and there could be no doubt: this swansong would be unforgettable.
From oblivion to the wilderness
The last few years haven’t been kind to Funeral For a Friend, at least from a commercial standpoint. It seemed this was a band destined never to replicate their glory years, the halcyon epoch between 2002 and 2005, when ‘emo’ exploded into the mainstream. It’s a shame really, because some of Funeral’s latter-day albums kicked ass. There’s not a single bum note on 2013’s ‘Conduit’, and 2011’s ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ was, at times, blistering.
The writing seemed to be on the wall a few years ago, when Funeral played King Tut’s. That night every song from the first two albums was fanatically received, while others were acknowledged with a nodded head or gently tapped toe. ‘I don’t know what it’s gonna take to get you guys moving,’ Davies-Kreye grouched, moodily prowling the stage. ‘Maybe we just need to play all old songs, maybe the new ones aren’t cutting it. Which makes me sad…’ I felt for the singer then, because it wasn’t as though the recent tunes were third-rate; simply that ‘Casually Dressed…’ and ‘Hours’ were such towering achievements, such flaming landmarks of a genre whose chief characteristic remains the devotion it inspires in fans. As stirring as some of those later albums were, they couldn’t hope to compete with the first two. The early songs – tracks like Juneau and Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings and Drive and Roses For the Dead – were simply too fucking good.
Last night, Funeral played ‘Hours’ in its entirety, delivering the songs with a familiar intensity of feeling and effortlessly whipping the crowd into a riveted frenzy. Streetcar sounded particularly special and, just like on wax, the record’s sombre moments (Hospitality; History; Alvarez) complemented the heavier ones (Roses For the Dead; Recovery; Monsters) perfectly.
When the album was done and dusted, several unexpectedly special moments followed: Matt strapping on a guitar (“Oh, yes, I can actually play; don’t be scared”) for an intimidate solo rendition of B-side I Am the Arsonist; the singer getting every punter in the pit to sit cross-legged on the floor and simulate rowing a boat during the first half of Into Oblivion (Reunion); a killer performance of Sixteen, the band’s paean to punk rock. There was room, too, for recitals of Conduit and 1%, and the concert concluded with two songs from ‘Casually Dressed’, Juneau and Escape Artists Never Die, Adam Carroll of Zoax sharing vocal duties on the former. This was a welcome treat for fans like myself who couldn’t make the second night.
Billed as the last chance to dance, the last chance to witness Funeral spill their powder keg hearts on stage, this night was a triumph, a celebration, an opportunity to let yourself go in the moment. All the more bittersweet and cathartic for the realisation that it would be the final time.
FFaF rock Glasgow. Image: Music Existence
There was an undeniable connection forged between the quintet and the crowd, and also a bond of silent intimacy fused between fans in the audience. I witnessed friends embrace, sing together at the top of their lungs, throw their heads back in ecstatic recognition of what the band had meant to them, the deep score these songs had impressed on their psyches. It was a powerful and palpable sense: Funeral meant a hell of a lot to a fuckton of people.
On the way out of the venue, I channeled Patrick Bateman, searching for a blood-red notice that assured THIS IS NOT AN EXIT. Sadly, there was none.
If this was indeed the end, it was a glorious valediction, a reaffirmation of why Funeral meant so much to so many. Take a bow, boys. And with one accord we’ll raise our fingers for one last salute.