Friday, 1st March 2019
In 1989, this reviewer attended his first gig at the tender age of 13, watching FM play a one-off gig at The Astoria in London before they embarked upon the tour for their second album, Tough It Out. I recall the band opening with my favourite track, I Belong to The Night, a melodic rock anthem which has lost none of its charm in the intervening thirty years.
If the evening felt like it might involve a little late Eighties nostalgia, then this sense was not diminished by the support of Dare, who are currently touring their thirtieth anniversary re-recording of 1988’s debut, Out Of The Silence. The house was full early in their set, indicating that a good many fans were enjoying the night as a double-header. Who can blame them? Dare were a great choice of support and lead singer Darren Wharton was in fine voice despite battling a cold. The band received an enthusiastic response from the crowd, particularly during their renditions of Abandon and Into the Fire from the debut.
FM took to the stage with Black Magic from their latest effort, Atomic Generation. It’s a solid and catchy rocker with plenty of ‘Wo-oahs’ for Steve Overland to flex his unmistakable vocal chords over. The faces (and especially the hairstyles) may have changed over the last thirty years, but the band’s exceptional musicianship remains undiminished. A word of praise here for the crew too; the sound levels were absolutely perfect, with every instrument and mic perfectly balanced against each other. Rarely do I attend a gig without thinking that someone is either too low or too high in the mix – not so this time.
The guitar intro to Bad Luck was met with an enthusiastic roar from the crowd and was the first track from the band’s superb, and understandably well represented, first two albums. Once the band hit the chorus, most of the crowd were gleefully singing along. The enthusiasm gathered pace as FM embarked upon the debut album’s opener, That Girl, before returning to another of their more recent offerings, Life Is A Highway. This, in turn, saw the extended version of Let Love Be the Leader find its way into the night’s set.
The band slowed things down for the first ballad of the night, an oft-requested Closer to Heaven from Aphrodisiac. It had been a good number of years since I had heard this song, but on the night I was reminded of its brilliance. One of the standouts of the night, Steve Overland really shone here offering not only the heartfelt vocals, but a stunning guitar solo. For some rock bands, a ballad might see all those without their partners head to the bar. This doesn’t happen with FM. The band are often at their very best when the pace is slower, and the listener has the chance to savour what they’re hearing.
Dangerous was a welcome surprise to the set. With a history longer than the band itself, the song has gone through a variety of incarnations: a live B-side to Frozen Heart, a re-recording on Overland and Jupp’s The Ladder debut, and then an FM studio version on the Wildside EP. It’s a classic and would undoubtedly have been an excellent choice for Indiscreet had the album not already been filled with nine other gems.
One of those gems followed. Face to Face transports me back to the Eighties every time I hear it, so too the balladry of Tough It Out’s The Dream That Died. Both these songs showcase that distinctive FM sound that has endured for over three decades.
FM’s comeback album, Metropolis, was represented on this night with the title track (a short instrumental) and Over You. Outside of the band’s first two albums, Metropolis is my favourite FM album and I would have been happier to hear more of it in the set. There is an infectious, and slightly jaunty, quality to the rhythm of Over You’s chorus which continues to bounce around in my head in the days after the gig. There then followed a pause in the proceedings to celebrate Jupp’s 60th birthday.
Tough It Out’s Does It Feel Like Love? and the title track bookend I Belong to The Night which, as thirty years previously, was the highlight of the show for me. Jem Davis had hardly been under-represented during the gig, but this keyboard-driven melodic rocker put him front and centre of the band’s sound and reminded us how ably he filled Didge Digital’s place behind the ivories.
There were one or two surprises to the set, not least the absence of Frozen Heart in favour of other ballads, and it was a pity that Crosstown Train had been dropped from the tour’s list. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic show and these absences only serve to show how many great songs there are at the band’s disposal from their impressive repertoire.
The main set closed as it began, with another track from last year’s Atomic Generation. Killed By Love is a pleasant enough number, but their latest has better tracks on it that I would have preferred to hear over this. The encores were well chosen, though. Rockville’s best track, Story of My Life was performed as a wonderfully melodic piano and vocal duet between Davis and Overland and was another of the gig’s highlights. This was followed by the soaring and magnificent Someday and Other Side of Midnight, which completed a truly splendid night in the company of FM.
Life Is A Highway
Let Love Be the Leader
Closer to Heaven
Face to Face
The Dream That Died
Does It Feel Like Love
I Belong to the Night
Tough It Out
Killed by Love
Story of My Life
Someday (You’ll Come Running)
Other Side of Midnight
MUSICIANS – FM
Steve Overland – Lead Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitar
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jim Fitzpatrick – Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jem Davis – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Pete Jupp – Drums, Backing Vocals
Photos by Rob Fisher and Chris Greenwell, used with permission.