Too weird for the metal crowd, too loud for the indie world, Faith No More were always destined for passionate cult appeal. Reformed since 2009, not everyone will have been thrilled to see them coming back with their first new songs in 18 years this year, given that they opened the door for the reviled rap-rock genre with their biggest hit, 1989’s Epic.
The San Francisco quintet were always more interesting than their imitators, however.
While easy listening tunes from Mancini and Bacharach warmed up the headbangers, roadies decorated a pure white stage with more flowers than a state funeral. With the band all in white too, it looked less like a second coming and more like we’d been granted a look at their heavenly afterlife.
Singer Mike Patton was in combative mood, beginning every song in a crouch, legs splayed, as though ready to take a punch. Now 47, the affectionate crowd chanted “You fat bastard” at him. “That’s the London we know and love,” retorted keyboard player Roddy Bottum.
Bottum’s work was often what lifted the band above a more brutish guitar assault, especially on the sophisticated, climactic new one, Matador. They also showed a softer side by covering The Commodores’ smooth classic Easy, with no sign of iconoclasm or even a raised eyebrow.
The fans responded most energetically to Midlife Crisis, appropriately enough given their average age these days. Perhaps it was the musical equivalent of buying a motorbike and a leather jacket and riding off with your secretary, with spat vocals and a shouted chorus that couldn’t fail to sweep the crowd upwards.
Bottum and Patton exchanged ricocheting screams on another impressive new one, Superhero, towards the close. It was the best indication that this is no midlife crisis, that this strange band have more to offer when they could be coasting on a dusty reputation.