...this is only the beginning...
Time for a bit of history. It’s almost two years since NME saw [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a]
play for the first time, in the spit-and-sawdust environs of TJ’s – a mere hundred paces up the road from the cavernous hall we cram into tonight. Even back then, [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a] boasted a charisma that elevated them far above the south Wales punk journeymen. As we stood and watched [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a] serenade a squirming pit of kids with an infectious, scream-along take on ‘The Art Of American Football’, it immediately dawned that this band had their sights trained far beyond the cliquey punk circles of the valleys. This was a band with vision. And it wasn’t so much a question of if they were going to be big. It was a question of how big.
Twenty months on, as [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a] scramble onstage in a rattle of flash-bulbs and launch into the grand catharsis of ‘Rookie Of The Year’, it’s like everything and nothing has changed. Sure, now they carry a
Top Ten album and a clutch of Top 20 singles under their studded belts, but aside from some slightly shaggier fringes, much is the same. Still, tonight,
the feeling of relief is palpable: this marks the culmination of the globe-spanning tour that ripped them out of Wales and exploded them into an unfamiliar new world. Out across the US on tour. Playing to fields of thinning European mullets in support to Iron Maiden. Provoking Funeralmania in Japan. There were times when Matt looked like he wouldn’t last the distance: that week when a cyst on his tour-ravaged throat had swollen up to the size of a large marble. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And tonight, we see [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a] speeding upwards on their steepest trajectory yet.
Here we see many of the traditional accoutrements of the homecoming gig: bassist Gareth Daviessearching for familiar faces amid the moshpit; a pair of voluminous underpants hurled onstage; a lighters-out take on ‘Your Revolution
Is A Joke’, sweetly dedicated to the band’s families. Cynics would claim that this tour’s gimmick – playing the entire contents of ‘Casually Dressed And Deep
In Conversation’ in order – reduces matters to little more than emo karaoke. But that’s to profoundly misunderstand the [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a] spirit. The buzz here, you see, has always been that
of recognition: guitarist Kris Roberts’ scintillating, dancing melodics that send prickles up and down your spine, a chorus that finds you unconsciously moving your lips in harmony. And Matt knows how to bleed these moments dry: on ‘Juneau’, he stands centre stage, one arm raised skywards like a lightning rod, the other brandishing the microphone towards the heart of the pit. It’s an epic occasion of group therapy, a moshpit united in rock communion: the work of a band not afraid to cut right to the heart of the matter – or indeed, the matter of the heart.
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Yes, if you must, this is ‘emo’: young men on the stage, hankies for goalposts. Yet in the same way [a]Nirvana[/a] and [a]Smashing Pumpkins[/a] swiftly outgrew their grunge roots, you somehow sense that these young escape artists have the flexibility to slip this particular straitjacket. Truly, for [a]Funeral For A Friend[/a], this is only the beginning.