Faith No More Returns to Houston At Last
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Faith No More, Napalm Death
Bayou Music Center
July 28, 2015
They held out as long as they could, but at some point, Faith No More must have known they’d have to come back to Texas. After an 18-year hiatus, the band is finally back in the midst of a nice, long North American tour, with new music (and a few new T-shirts) to push. An entire generation of admirers has been raised since the last time Faith No More rolled sneering into town, and they’ve still got enough diehard fans ‘round these parts to fill Bayou Music Center to the brim on a Tuesday night.
Because Faith No More has always enjoyed challenging (or maybe just plain fucking with) those fans, they brought along mega-brutal grindcore gods Napalm Death to open for them on the Texas dates of the tour. And why not? The groups are longtime pals, and who wouldn’t want to see Napalm rip it up on a big stage?
Still without guitarist Mitch Harris, who is on hiatus from the group, Napalm Death played a selection of tunes from their most recent record, Apex Predator…Easy Meat, including the frought and charging “Smash a Single Digit.” There was some crushing old stuff thrown in, as well, including the wild “Scum” and their mighty DKs cover, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” The obliterating “Suffer the Children” from Harmony Corruption was a major highlight. Well-conditioned to accept strange musical ideas, the swelling crowd cottoned nicely to the blast-beating.
As if to cleanse the room of Napalm’s determined ugliness, dozens of delicate-looking flowers were arranged all over the stage next. The crowd was littered with the customary black T-shirts, but Faith No More’s all-white stage dressing and pure linen attire made the production look more like a beach wedding at some island resort than a rock concert.
It was only a rock concert, of course, but it would be a rock concert on Faith No More’s terms, and no one else’s. As if to alleviate any notion right off the bat that they’re a nostalgia act, the band opened with “Cone of Shame,” one of their lesser-known new songs from this year’s Sol Invictus. It would be the first of five new tunes from the album on the evening, and fans patiently gave each of them a shot, even though many were clearly still crossing their fingers for old chestnuts like “Zombie Eaters.”
But without the new music, Faith No More would have never taken this tour — and maybe never returned to Texas. Besides, they weren’t half bad. “Black Friday,” which saw vocalist extraordinaire Mike Patton take over on tambourine, sounded like it was taken from the forgotten soundtrack to a never-released Russ Meyer film about motorcycle lesbians. “Motherfucker” feels destined to be a cherished singalong someday, if the band manages to stick around for a few more years.
Naturally, though, people went wildest for the old stuff. The band’s sole radio smash, “Epic,” was slotted into the middle of the set, eliciting big cheers. “Everything’s Ruined” and “Midlife Crisis” from Angel Dust were highlights as well, with the band launching into a strange lounge version of the latter song’s chorus after allowing the crowd to take a crack at it first.
Some of the older selections produced as much chin-scratching in the audience as the new stuff did. I’m not sure anybody showed up on Tuesday night dying to hear the Angel Dust-era studio relic “As the Worm Turns,” but there it was, in the middle of the encore. “Spirit,” from Chuck Mosley’s time as front man, proved an interesting choice, too, as Patton forcefully demanded that the audience meditate with him.
Frankly, Faith No More didn’t much give a shit if we knew all the songs, or even liked them, for that matter. The band is plainly doing this tour simply for themselves, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly on Tuesday — happy to be playing new songs for old fans in a place they hadn’t been in ages.
Hell, that was more than most of the assembled weirdoes at Bayou Music Center had dared hope for over the past 20 years. I’d certainly given up hope of ever hearing “Ashes to Ashes” live, but last night it sounded huge and glorious, as if the band had never broken up to begin with. As long as they find they can still surprise us, Faith No More might just keep at this reunion thing for a while.
Personal Bias: YOU COULDN’T DO “A SMALL VICTORY,” OH MY GOD COME ON.
The Crowd: Mainly white folks in their thirties and forties. The line for the men’s restroom was much longer than the women’s.
Overheard in the Crowd: “IT’S IT!”
Random Notebook Dump: Terrific sound mix for Faith No More last night. Not an easy task with such a variance in dynamics.
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