Date: April 8th + 9th, 2016
Venue: The Ritz, Manchester
Line-up: Funeral for a Friend + Shai Hulud + Zoax
There have been a few times in the past when I’ve been to see a band and it later on turns out that would be the final time I would get to catch them. However, it’s a whole different feeling when buying tickets to a show knowing that this will be potentially the last time you will ever see them. It was this unfortunate feeling that came over me when I found out that Funeral for a Friend had decided to call it a day and were embarking on one final tour before disbanding that they had dubbed the “Final Chance to Dance” tour. Playing their debut album Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation one night and its follow-up Hours the other this was a opportunity not to be missed.
Up and coming London act Zoax were selected by the band to open the show, using them as an example of the direction the post-hardcore genre was heading in the future as well as the fact that they were good friends. Being a fairly young band they had a bite and energy in their performance, they were always moving around and clearly enjoying performing on stage. Vocalist Adam Carroll was the standout of their performance going above and beyond their call of duty as the warm-up act, explaining that if you weren’t having fun that he would make you. Jumping off the stage and onto the floor (and also the balcony on the first night), he made his way over to anyone he felt wasn’t participating by hopping on the couches or tables and singing in people’s faces to get their attention and get them motivated.
Much like how Zoax were chosen, metallic hardcore act Shai Hulud were invited to support the band as a representative of the past, who they were influenced by and where their sound came from. Their hardcore sound had all the right elements from the heavy riffs, pounding rhythm section and gang shout-outs but they failed to garner the same kind of response that Zoax did outside of a few diehard fans. Vocalist Matty Carlock still tried his hardest to get the crowd moving by coming down to the barrier and letting people scream along the words. Long-time guitarist and band leader Matt Fox also gave a few words of appreciation to the crowd and to the headliners for the opportunity to play on this tour.
Friday 8th of April – Hours
Funeral for a Friend took to the stage with a burst of cheering and applause from the audience, Matthew Davies graciously took their support. Before starting their set he wanted to lay down the ground rules for the show, which was simply that everyone was to enjoy themselves in whatever shape of form they wanted, everything from singing to dancing. It was then that they started to play those distinct drum roll and opening riff to ‘All the Rage’. Instantly the crowd kicked themselves into gear, there wasn’t a single person left standing still on the main floor. Everyone was jumping around, fists in the air or simply singing along with Matthew, whatever the occasion called for.
The band performed with a purpose and drive, this was the last time they would be playing in these cities and as Matthew ironically pointed out was the first and last time they’d play in this venue. With most songs he gave some background to the song or its lyrics, like his stint in hospital when he had some problems with his throat which he used to write ‘Hospitality’ or his support for the LGBT community in the rarely played ‘Alvarez’.
At the halfway point of the album the band and the crowd had reached a high point of excitement. It was this moment that Matthew invited a pair of audience members to the stage, one dressed as a cow and the other a duck/chicken, which he had spotted at the beginning of the show. They came up and danced and sang along to ‘Recovery’ before being swiftly kicked off afterwards.
After the final notes of ‘Sonny’, the closing track of Hours, were played guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts handed Matthew a guitar and left the stage with his fellow bandmates. Matt was left alone on stage to perform ‘I Am the Arsonist’, a b-side to Hours, serving as a bridge between the 2 sets. With the rest of the band returning to the stage they closed the show with a “greatest hits” of sorts with material from the debut up to their final album Chapter and Verse played. Closing with a pair of their hits ‘Juneau’ and ‘Escape Artists Never Die’, the band bid a farewell to those who had come for that show and a “see you soon” to those returning the next night.
Saturday 9th of April – Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation
The second of Funeral for a Friend’s shows in Manchester focused on their debut album Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation, an album which has been hailed as a milestone in the British rock scene and has influenced countless bands since its release. The atmosphere was similar to the night before, mainly due to much of the crowd returning from the night before. It was a strong start to the night with the band throwing out their biggest tracks ‘Rookie of the Year’, ‘Bullet Theory’ and ‘Juneau’ which featured a guest appearance of Zoax frontman Adam Carroll.
Introduced as simply ‘Track 4’, along with a little story from Matt about how people knew it by that name from the heyday of illegal downloads, ‘Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings’ really got the crowd moving when its main riff kicked in. It was great hearing some rarely played tracks live such as ‘Moments Forever Faded’ and ‘Waking Up’ in the set, still holding up as strong as they were when they were released. Matt gave the crowd the opportunity to take the reins a little by letting them sing the first minute of ‘Red Is the New Black’, their voices echoes through the venue making it feel like we were in a much bigger arena. Stripping things back for ‘Your Revolution is a Joke’ it was just Matt and Kris onstage for the short but emotional acoustic number.
The bands second set was a dream come true for any long-time Funeral for a Friend fan with tracks from their early E.P’s being aired. The likes of ‘This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak’ from Four Ways to Scream Your Name, ’10 Scene Points to the Winner’ a b-side to ‘Escape Artists Never Die’, and ’10:45 Amsterdam Conversations’, the very first song written by the band, had the crowd whipped into a frenzy.
The band closed the night, and indeed their final ever show in Manchester, with ‘Roses for the Dead’, a song which Matt said they purposely selected to be the final song to be played in a particular city as it represented a culmination of the bands journey and what they had achieved. Before the finale Matt gave a very heart-warming speech about the band, how they continued over the years and that they were always grateful to whoever would lend their ears to their music. “We were never in it for the fame or the money” he stated, something I wouldn’t believe coming from most artists but Matt was genuine in what he was saying. The crowd showed their appreciation for his words with resounding applause and chants of “funeral!”, an act which seemed to get to Matt as he seemed a little emotional and taken aback.
With those final words and a show stopping performance of ‘Roses for the Dead’, it was the end an era for a band whose music had helped shaped my love for music about 10 years ago. It was a bittersweet couple of nights but I couldn’t think of a more fitting way for the band to bow out than with a career-spanning set of shows played to a packed room of their biggest fans.