Faith No More Played to Their Own Rules, Not Nostalgia, at South Side Ballroom

Faith No More
With Napalm Death
South Side Ballroom, Dallas
Monday, July 27, 2015

There was barely a hint of a nostalgia cash grab in Faith No More's visit to South Side Ballroom Monday night. While that might have challenged the casual fan, the five-piece presented themselves as who they are, not what they think people want, throughout an eclectic 90-minute set. 

Back in the 1990s, the band lost some of its momentum (and fanbase) as they moved on after the departure of guitarist Jim Martin. Regrouping a few years ago with the Album of the Year line-up with Jon Hudson on guitar, the band seems genuinely happy to play together again. Frontman Mike Patton, especially. Seems like a working version of Faith No More is better than no band at all, in the fans' and the band's eyes. 

The night had started out on a challenging note, as grindcore pioneers Napalm Death (yes, the Napalm Death) played to a surprisingly warm and receptive audience. Playing pummeling tunes that could be as short as only a few seconds to a few minutes, frontman Barney Greenway kept a lot of banter in a self-deprecating vein when not complaining about how fucked up the world is.

Faith No More took to the stage at 9:30 after a long string of easy listening tunes on the PA, from the theme to the original Pink Panther to the Fifth Dimension's "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In" to an instrumental version of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." Coming out to John Barry's hauntingly beautiful Midnight Cowboy theme, the band was dressed in all white, their amps were covered in white and the stage was surrounded by flowers. If hard rock and metal are all about the color black, Faith No More openly embraced the opposite.

Throughout their set, which ran all around the band's lengthy career, they showed how they could do any genre they wanted to do. Whether it was razor-sharp, Bad Brains-esque punk to a faithful version of the Commodores' "Easy," the band owned up to how unclassifiable they are. They might have influenced Korn and Slipknot when they were starting out, but neither of those bands embrace the weird and unpredictable like Faith No More.

Patton, who is rightly heralded as a vocal chameleon/acrobat, could sing his throat out on a standout like "Ashes to Ashes" but also chop and slice on "Everything's Ruined." The overall mix was quite good in a venue sometimes dogged for uneven mixes. Every thwap Billy Gould smacked on his bass, every hit Mike Bordin did on his drum kit, every bend and palm mute Hudson hit, and every note Roddy Bottum sprinkled on his keyboard was noticeable.

The crowd's reactions to the new material (this year's Sol Invictus) was mixed. "Black Friday," a jangle-pop tune with constant tambourine, was met with appreciation rather than love. "Superhero" proved to be an enjoyable sing-along between band and crowd. "Motherfucker," which has kicked off a number of the band's shows lately, was saved for the encore, and it was welcomed. The band didn't pain the audience with a string of less-familiar tunes for too long. They did their biggest hit, "Epic," fifth in a set of 19 songs. They played "Midlife Crisis" a few songs later and ended the night with "We Care A Lot."

By the end of the night, the 90 minutes seemed to flash by. For a band that can make you think you're seeing a Minor Threat show, a Broadway musical, a Parliament Funkadelic show and a David Bowie show all at once, it was certainly a one-of-a-kind night.

Personal bias: I have been a casual fan of Faith No More since The Real Thing. In my company were two superfans who came away very happy from the show, one of them proclaiming it was the best show of theirs he'd seen. I can safely say this show was a primer to dig much deeper into the band's catalog.

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