Sunday, 7 June 2015

Funeral For A Friend - Oxford O2 Academy 2, 06/06/15

This was my second time seeing Funeral For A Friend, the first being their slot on the Lock Up stage at Reading and Leeds 2013 - so as you can imagine, this was a massively different show to experience. With a tightly packed (yet a bit on the small side) crowd in attendance waiting patiently for their headline band, it was brilliant that the supports were complete 180's to each other, and it made for a very interesting line-up that will have definitely appealed to everyone in some shape or form.

Opening band Elasea were definitely the support band that I preferred. Starting off with 'To Feel Alive', I was impressed with the transition they performed between their first and second songs - it was seamless and had a professional feel that is lacking in many much more established bands. In fact, their entire set was so polished it felt for a moment as though this could be an Elasea headline show: the flashing lights perfectly synced to the music immersed me in the music completely, and I was surprised by how quickly their set flew past. 
The standout track for me was definitely torn between 'Lost In The Dark' and 'Glass Heart' - the former had beautiful lyrics that would be perfect screamed back by a huge crowd, while the latter was reminiscent of Lower Than Atlantis or Fort Hope, showing that there is definitely a fanbase out there waiting for this band. But while they were my favourites, the other songs all had their own distinct moments - the drum beat on 'Glory For The Sinner' is still stuck in my head, and 'Shallow Waters' (which they have a really awesome music video for) was also catchy and infectious, with more of a grunge twist on the rock sound and a super atmospheric breakdown in the middle.
I hadn't heard of Elasea before the show, but their style of music appealed to me and I've come away quite excited about where these guys can go in the future. They've only been around for a handful of years, and with the announcement at the show that they've been recording an EP, this will be their time - I'm certain of it. They're playing a show in Swindon, my home town, in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to try my hardest to get along to it - if you have a chance, go, you won't regret it. 

To Feel Alive
Time Is Against Us
Glory For The Sinner
Lost In The Dark
Glass Heart
Shallow Waters

However, second support band Korsakoffs were really not my cup of tea. Very very heavy, with lots of shouting, for most of their set I just felt as though I was being engulfed in an endless wave of noise. Some of the crowd definitely seemed to be enjoying it, with lots of cheering along at the end of all of their songs, but the set all seemed a bit one dimensional to me, and that one dimensional was not appealing. 
Don't get me wrong, they all seemed like lovely guys - their onstage banter was a bit lacking, but they all just seemed so utterly pleased to be there - and they played their instruments well, but this just wasn't something I was going to enjoy.
Their penultimate song was definitely the most different. Main vocalist/shouter Ben Woosnam went to backing vocals, and bassist Ben Royle took over lead vocals for a song, and Royle's voice definitely appealed to my music taste more. The song was rambling and lengthy, bringing to mind Metallica, but it was a welcome reprieve from the heaviness that had stayed center stage throughout. 

I was beyond excited about seeing my first Funeral For A Friend headline show, especially following the release of 'Chapter and Verse' last year, and I was not disappointed. Starting with 'Pencil Pusher' I was shocked by how much vibrancy the band were displaying - at Reading their set was quite pared back, completely in contrast with this explosive performance. Transitioning straight into 'High Castles', the energy only let up for a slight break for guitarist Gavin Burrough to have a personal discussion with a member of the crowd, but the band were soon back at it again. It's a testament to Gavin, and to the rest of the guys, that they carried the show on with such professionalism, and all of the crowd seemed sympathetic to the situation as well. 
The rest of the set didn't let up, with 'Streetcar' really kicking the crowd up a gear. I was quite surprised by how much better the reception was for the older songs - you could tell that the crowd was attentive and respectful through some of their newer tunes, but the older tracks were the only ones that got the crowd moving as much as I'd been expecting them to. Vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye apologised for his voice sounding a bit rough, citing their "over-excited" final set at Camden Rocks last weekend, and stating he was "trying [his] darnedest to sound pretty", but even Matt's vocal problems couldn't detract from a brilliant performed and well-crafted set. There was a focus upon older material, which you could tell the crowd appreciated, but they also managed to fit in a selection of hits from their three most recent albums, and it was great to hear the different eras of their music complementing each other so casually. 
There were multiple touching moments throughout the set, with Matt dedicating 'Storytelling' to his sister, and sharing anecdotes about his niece and nephew, who have both been going to Funeral For A Friend shows since they were young. Matt's speech before 'Roses For The Dead' was also very heart-wrenching; with Matt sharing that it's "always been a song that brings back memories of people I've cared about that I've had to say goodbye to over the years" and said "it connects me to the people I love now and the people I've loved who are no longer with us". The resounding roar of agreement from the crowd was spine-tingling, and I've never felt more strongly that the sentiment of music being universal and uniting people is completely true. 
In all honesty, all of the early material that they played gave me the same feeling. The second half of the set was purely made up of older material, kick starting it with 'Recovery', my personal favourite Funeral song of all time. Despite the fact that the lyrics are bleak and depressing, the music is still something that you can dance to, which will always be a strange juxtaposition to me - but you could tell how cathartic this show was for many of the people in attendance. This was cemented at the end of 'History', in which the audience sang the entire final chorus completely unaccompanied, and ended up being louder than the band were through their entire set. A brief chant of "when I say 'scuba', you say 'Steve'" went up, and it made this show seem even stranger - for an emo rock band to have gang chant moments like that is just so weird but, bizarrely, it works.
If you've been to a lot of Funeral For A Friend shows, you might know that this is just the norm for their sets, but this was my first proper show and it really felt like something special. With fourteen years of experience comes a certain finesse and ease with the crowd, and even though Matt's vocal was strained and slightly inaudible at times, the smile on his face from doing what he loves made up for the less than perfect sound. If I'm lucky enough to see another Funeral For A Friend set, I'll be happy if it was even half as good as this one. 

Pencil Pusher
High Castles
The Distance
You've Got A Bad Case Of The Religions
Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings
Front Row Seats To The End Of The World
Old Hymns
Roses For The Dead
Rookie Of The Year
Escape Artists Never Die (ft. Ben Woosnam of Korsakoffs)

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