It is 25 years almost to the day that one of the best rock albums of the eighties was released. Faith No More’s “The Real Thing” sprang from nowhere and won huge critical praise at the time, finishing in Kerrang!’s Top Five Albums of the Year, with the likes of Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, riding high at the time with Hysteria, describing the album the “best record of the last ten years”. The album was brave, experimental and was lead vocalist Mike Patton’s first with the band. Dauntingly, he had replaced Chuck Mosley a man with whom the band had enjoyed breakthrough success with hit single “We Care A Lot”. But Patton brought vitality to the band’s sound, and The Real Thing was a huge success.
What’s more, unlike many of that year’s rock releases, it is a record that has aged extremely well. The likes of “Epic” still sound contemporary, suggesting The Real Thing was not only part of its time, but also ahead of its time.
Yet, post the release of follow up LP “Angel Dust”, guitarist “Ugly” Jim Martin left the band in 1993, sacked in a rather arcane manner – by fax.* A couple of further albums followed but the band split in 1998, and remained parted for a decade.
As with all such things, there has been a reconciliation, albeit without Martin, but this is still the first show the band has played in two years. The band now consists of Patton, drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum (keys) and Jon Hudson (guitars).
With a stage dressed all in white and bedecked with flowers, Faith No More risked a few sideways glances from the huge crowd that greeted them on a warm and sunny Hyde Park afternoon.
When they took the stage all dressed as your local vicar, with Mike Patton blessing the crowd Omen-style it was clear Faith No More had lost none of their strangeness or charm.
Kicking off with “Zombie Eaters”, “From Out of Nowhere” and “Epic” Patton hit the ground running. However the performance overall was something of a curate’s egg with the band subsequently moving on from that classic album onto material from Angel Dust onwards. A strong “Midlife Crisis” and a trademark “Easy Like Sunday Morning” (“It’s okay, you can sing if you want to” teased Patton) sounded fresh. However, this was the band’s first major performance for two years, and Patton appeared to be assisted with a teleprompter (or a lectern…) to help him remember the words. This aside, Patton was engaging and fun – bantering with the crowd. “Are you all enjoying the 4th of July holiday?” is clearly not a question best addressed to Brits. “Oh….that’s when we kicked your ass, right? Thanks guys” he smiled with a wicked glint in his eye.
The set closed in style, with the song that started it all, proto-rap metal classic “We Care A Lot”.
They’re a funny bunch, are Faith No More. In a world filled with identikit landfill bands, it’s good to see them back…
* 21st century equivalent: being sacked by text.