Failure House of Blues June 11, 2014
It's only been a few months since L.A.'s Failure last appeared in Houston, but it feels like much longer. For dedicated fans, the band's set opening for Tool at Toyota Center was little more than a tease: most of the crowd was still trying hard to find their seats or simply get inside the building by the time Failure was wrapping up.
As teases go, though, it was a pretty damn good one. The heavy, spacey trio sounded sharp, slick and even a bit hungry -- not bad for a band back on the road for the first time in 17 years. The performance made the prospect of a full-blown Failure tour irresistibly tantalizing, particularly for the growing number of fans who discovered the group after their breakup in 1997.
On Wednesday night at House of Blues, those fans finally got what they'd been waiting a very long time for: a reunited Failure on the top of its game, playing all of the old tunes that should have made them rich and famous the first time around.
The show started just a touch after 8 p.m., and there was no opening act. Perhaps they figured fans had waited long enough already. Whatever Failure's reasoning, though, it was a refreshing move for a Wednesday night. Nobody wants to hang around downtown past midnight when they've got work in the morning.
Right off the bat, it was clear that Failure had arrived in Houston with its signature sound fully intact. Even as Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards switched off on bass and guitar, the band was able to recreate the moody atmosphere of their albums impeccably. Andrews has become an in-demand studio knob-twiddler since Failure's breakup, and armed with two laptops, a rack of processors and a mixing board onstage, he was able to achieve an ideal sound mix on the band's terrific PA.
Failure never had the kind of drawing power necessary to fill up a room as big as House of Blues on tour, but then venue's floor was crowded and happy as fans bobbed along to heavy singalongs like "Saturday Saviour." If there were any folks there who were old enough (and cool enough) to have seen Failure back in the mid-'90s, they've certainly aged well.
For the majority of the crowd, this seemed to be their first shot at seeing a band they thought they'd never see. It was a moment everyone seemed to be savoring.
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As Failure unleashed space-grunge gems like "Solaris" and "Stuck On You," it was as if a '90s time capsule had been opened, offering the chance to slip back into a time when guitars still roamed the earth. The band showed a few signs of age, sure -- Andrews wore an elbow brace on his strumming arm -- but there was no hint of rust. Failure sounded tight, engaged and professional.
It wasn't all nostalgia, either. During the encore, Failure unveiled a punchy, upbeat new tune called "The Focus" that was received with much intrigued chin-scratching from the audience. Fans seemed almost taken back a bit by the prospect of new Failure; the band had been seemingly frozen in amber for so long that the concept took a few minutes to grow on people.
But they cheered when the song was over, and they cheered even louder when Andrews told them that it was but a sample of what should soon be an entire new album from the group.
Another set, another tease from Failure. By the look and sound of things on Wednesday, though, the band appears to be back for good, and better than ever to boot. Maybe 17 years isn't really as long as it seems.
Personal Bias: I
The Crowd: 30-plus and happy.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That's, like, the 7th best song in the world. Maybe the first."
Random Notebook Dump: Loved getting out at 10:30 on a Wednesday. More touring acts with 3-plus albums under their belts should take a cue from Failure.
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