Lunatic's Serenade

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Faith No More in Toronto
at The Sony Centre - 5/9/15

It’s been eighteen years since eclectic metal legends Faith No More disappeared in a swirl of mild acrimony.

To say FNM singer Mike Patton has remained busy in the ensuing time is a hell of an understatement, with the ubiquitous Patton fronting a half-dozen other bands as well as releasing a broad range of material under his own name (for a startling example of the man’s versatility, check out 2010’s MONDO CANE, an orchestral cover album of Italian pop hits from the fifties and sixties). The remainder of FNM’s members tinkered away on their own side projects, with bassist Billy Gould forming new bands alongside Jello Biafra and Korn’s Munky, and keyboardist Roddy Bottum detouring into writing score music for films.

In 2009, the band decided to reunite and play some lucrative festival dates abroad, to the delight of their fans living outside of North America and to the frustration of those on their home continent. Claiming a lack of interest in domestic promoters booking the band for the long delay, FNM have finally launched a proper stateside tour in advance of the release of comeback album SOL INVICTUS.

This May Ninth marked FNM’s grand return to Toronto, and the chosen venue was the Sony Centre for the Performing arts—a small theatre maybe more suited for hosting ballet recitals than heavy concerts. The downside of the Sony is attendees itching to move but locked into rows of plush seating, and no floor space to rush the stage. The upside is hearing a show in a building designed to conduct clear layers of sound, as opposed to the muddy melange of echoes one must endure at an arena or club gig.

Opening band Le Butcherettes (sic), a signing of Patton’s Ipecac Records label, proved to be a puzzle. They’re a Mexican three-piece playing three-chord punky psychedelic garage; were this ten years ago, when bands like the White Stripes and the Hives were of the moment, Le Butcherettes would have made more sense. Instead, unmemorable, same-y tunes left little impression, and frontwoman Teri Genderbender scurrying out into the crowd mid-song to flail, duckwalk, and lift her dress over her head to reveal her leotards felt less like a performer overcome by a righteous musical fervour and more like the antics of a bratty toddler seeking parental attention.

After the vamp primed the audience with a selection of soft sixties pop (‘Moon River, and the ‘Pink Panther’ theme, for example) and the stage was dressed in white drop cloths and boxes of flowers, Faith No More appeared to a rapturous reception from the sold-out Sony. Dressed all in blinding white and looking like they just got off a shift down at the bakery, the band lead off with sparse new track ‘Motherfucker’, then tore immediately into ‘Land of Sunshine’ from the Angel Dust album. Big commercial hits ‘Epic’ and ‘Midlife Crisis’ were trotted out surprising early in the set, with the latter featuring a funky Boz Scaggs reworking and Patton leading the crowd in a passionate a capella singalong of the chorus. The sparkier, speedier material (‘Digging the Grave’ and ‘Get Out’ from the King For A Day album slew) still sounds fresh, as befits a band that defied all categories during their brief heyday, and the odd lounge-style covers ‘Easy’ and ‘I Started a Joke’ were endearing rather than indulgent thanks to Patton’s capable (and likely ironic) cabaret crooning. The new Sol Invictus tunes fit in well with the older catalogue songs, though their insertion quieted the audience somewhat—the risk of touring behind an album that has yet to be released.

"...Faith No More appeared to a rapturous reception from the sold-out Sony."

As good as it was, the entire FNM set lasted less than ninety minutes, and there were several reminders that the band are decades removed from the wild, unpredictable youngsters they once were. Drummer Mike Bordin looked taxed and somewhat pressed to keep pace, and several times a roadie was called upon mid-song to hop up on Bordin’s riser and pour bottled water down his gullet. Boddum would simply drift offstage on the numerous songs that didn’t require a keyboard part, then saunter back out when he would hear applause. All this left zero doubt that the ageless Patton is still the engine that drives the band; his signature banshee shrieks, stuttered verses, and inimitable growls spiking the energy whenever he chose to let them loose. Faith No More belongs to Patton, true then as it is now.

“It’s kind of weird that you’re still into us,” Patton confessed to the crowd before ending the evening with the Bee Gee’s ‘Joke’ and leaving fans wanting more. “We don’t get it… But we’ll take it!”

Trevor Parker, HMS

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