Since that pivotal show at Firefest in 2007, FM has gone from strength to strength. With more national airplay on both BBC Radio 2 and Planet Rock than they received ‘back in the day’, it is no surprise that the band is headlining the famous Shepherds Bush Empire for what I believe to be the fourth time.
Never one to rest on their laurels, they also ensure quality support acts and this was no exception. With Belfast reforming act No Hot Ashes opening and Romeo’s Daughter as main support, an excellent evening of melodic rock was guaranteed.
No Hot Ashes
No Hot Ashes are one of the bands that formed part of Belfast’s epic 80’s rock scene. As is often the case with bands from that era, they also form a long list of bands that never made it through the 90’s.
Thankfully they along with other deserving cases (see A.o.K / Angels or Kings) they’ve reformed and are clearly looking, with hunger, at getting another slice of the action.
Lead singer Eamon Nancarrow is full of smiles and his infectious charm sees the band deliver a tight enjoyable set. There’s clearly enough of the old school fans present tonight who remember the band from first time around and certainly a few friends and family to help make this, the last night of the tour with FM, one to remember.
If you’re interested, the story of the band’s inception and initial demise can be found in the singer’s humorous book – ‘Holywood Star: the life and times of a rock and roll misadventurer’
Dave Irvine – Guitar
Paul Boyd – Bass
Steve Strange – Drums,
Tommy Dickson – Keyboards
Eamon Nancarrow – Vocals
Fan favourites and regulars on the FM tour circuit, Romeo’s Daughter took and long hard look at the resurgence of rock music over the last few years, focussing, not surprisingly on the new found successes of headliners FM and thought “we want some of that pie”. An album reissue followed as did a reformation show at Firefest VI in 2009.
Following the same path therefore that FM and husband Merv Goldsworthy have managed to tread so well, there are as many Romeo’s Daughter t-shirts in the crowd as there are for the headliners, showing just how popular they are getting in the present day. It is helped no end by the fact that Leigh Matty looks as good as she did 20 years ago and moves with the same level of energy and passion as someone just starting out in the music business. Their latest album, ‘Rapture’ has reaffirmed them as a major player in the British melodic rock scene and the material including single ‘Bittersweet’ sits neatly alongside the debut from 1988 and its’ 1993 follow up.
Naturally fan favourite singles ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ and the definitive version of ‘Wild Child’ are aired and they’re received by a crowd enjoying the show as much if not more than the band on stage.
A great set and by far the best way to warm up a crowd for the mighty FM.
Leigh Matty – Lead vocals and background vocals,
Craig Joiner – Guitars and background vocals,
Jeff Knowler – Keyboards,
Ed Poole – Bass,
Andy Wells – drums and background vocals,
Ask any fan of British melodic rock which bands are in their top five and you’ll be hard pushed to find someone that doesn’t include FM in their list.
When the band take to the stage there are no heirs and graces, just a band delivering a perfect night of classic rock and an audience comfortable in the knowledge that FM simply do not know how to put on a poor show.
They open with the lead single (check out the excellent video on YouTube) ‘Digging Up The Dirt’ from latest album, ‘Heroes and Villains’. A powerful lead track, it reminds us that the band are perhaps now a stronger and tighter unit than they were back in the late 80s, early 90s. The newer tracks from the post 2007 FM are amongst the best things they’ve written and its reassuring to see that the set list contains tracks from all of the most recent albums.
FM do of course have a difficult job. There will always be a need to please the fans and play the classics but they will of course want to play more and more of the newer material. Given the newer material, like ‘Wildside’ and ‘Crosstown Train’ is rapidly attaining classic status in the eyes of the fans, this should become less of an issue as time progresses.
Steve Overland has a voice that doesn’t age but simply matures like a wonderful single malt whiskey. On tracks like ‘Closer to Heaven’ his voice is as soothing as honey and lemon. On ‘Tough it Out’ and ‘Bad Luck’ (there must be an anniversary show or 5 coming up soon?) he hits the high notes with the same panache he did 25 years ago.
Jim Kirkpatrick has done wonders in the lead guitar slot since joining to help deliver the Wildside E.P. His playing alongside Overland adds extra grit and energy and he does enough to the older material to make the solos his own without losing the sound everyone expects.
Mainstays Pete Jupp and Merv Goldsworthy keep the groove going with nothing less than a beaming smile on both faces for the duration of the show. Jem Davis brings the melody and is rarely seen playing anything less than three keyboards simultaneously.
‘Blood and Gasoline’ is added to the set thanks to fan power and the beauty of online survey, ‘Life Is A Highway’ segues perfectly into ‘Crosstown Train’ and before we know it the main set concludes with ‘Bad Luck’.
A quick exit and then the encore which finishes and brings the night to a close with a great rendition of ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ which has everyone on their feet, singing along.
Nothing less than triumphant but of course, we expected that!
Steve Overland – lead vocals \ guitars,
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass \ vocals,
Pete Jupp – Drums \ vocals,
Jem Davis – Keyboards \ Harmonica \ Vocals,
Jim Kirkpatrick – Lead guitar \ vocals,
Digging Up the Dirt
I Belong to the Night
Closer to Heaven
Let Love Be the Leader
Shape I’m In
Blood and Gasoline
Life Is a Highway
Tough It Out
Burning My Heart Down
Story of My Life
Other Side of Midnight