Even though I’ve been a massive fan of Funeral For a Friend since I was old enough to work a CD player, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how well they would come across in an intimate venue like the Old Fire Station. My fears were unfounded though, thanks to a tiny crowd whose response to the night was more energetic than certain festival headliners (the words Axl Rose come to mind) get out of 100,000 people. FFAF were helped in this by two of the best support bands I have seen in a long time. Tiger Please and Rise to Remain, as different from each other as they are, managed to rile up the crowd perfectly for FFAF’s appearance. Tiger Please kicked the crowd into action with the mischievous antics and booming Welsh voice of their frontman Leon Stanford and his pitch perfect contribution to their great alternative indie-rock sound. London boys Rise to Remain followed this up with their adrenaline fuelled metalcore, characterised by the unrestrained drumming of Pat Lundy and the passionate vocals and non-stop jumping around of Austin Dickinson.
The only real down point of the night was the inordinately long period between the end of Rise to Remain’s set and the appearance of Funeral For a Friend. It literally took an hour of riled up fans chanting their name before they belatedly strolled on stage. When they did though, all was forgiven. Their line-up has changed a lot over the last few years, with the departure of guitarist Darren Smith in 2009, the switch of Gavin Burrough from bass to guitar and the recruitment of Richard Boucher as a replacement bassist. The new formation appears much more comfortable performing with each other though, which has significantly improved their stage presence. This helped them a lot in such a compact venue, where impassioned guitar shredding flails often invoked a necessity for collective awareness and interaction as they ducked and weaved around each other to avoid falling into a crowd that would never let them go. Indeed, newest member Richard Boucher showed his quality during a technical fault with a fantastic improvised base solo in response to the challenge of (vocalist) Matt Davies, “Who wants to see a man play a tree?!”
Material from the latest album, Welcome Home Armageddon comes across very strongly live. ‘Sixteen’ for example, maintained FFAF’s characteristic sound whilst promoting an undertone of furious adrenaline that motivated the crowd into frenzy. All the old favourites you would expect were there too, with the big finale ‘Escape Artists Never Die’ from their first album Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation welling up that sense of nostalgia which enticed me to the night in the first place. Furthermore, the big crowd sing-along ‘History’ from Hours highlighted FFAF’s ability to produce a technical variety of sounds rather than just the one noise. Overall the night was a brilliant conclusion to their tour and well worth the trip down to Bournemouth.
Good- Great support acts, comedy-like routines of Matt Davies and Leon Stanford and massive crowd participation.
Bad – Overly long wait between bands and having to dodge the occasional flailing instrument.