Sunday, 30 October 2016

FM - Nottingham Review

Since first seeing the band, coincidentally in Nottingham, over two years ago, I have been fortunate enough to catch FM live a few times. While they do not have the heaviest touring schedule, I always seem to be able to make it when they announce a run of UK shows, and the band continue to deliver live which draws me back. I last saw the band back in July when they were supporting Heart at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Despite only having 40 or so minutes on stage, they still managed to deliver a winning set, and it acted as a warm-up for this show. This year is the 30th anniversary of the band's debut album Indiscreet, and FM announced that they would play it in full at selected shows. The show at Nottingham's excellent Rescue Rooms venue was one of these shows, and it was the easiest one I could make with it being on a Saturday. Nottingham is somewhere I used to visit regularly, but I had not been for over a year. A trip back to Nottingham is always a good thing, and gigs there are always special. Nottingham is a proper rock town, with big crowds usually turning out for rock shows creating fantastic atmospheres. This show was no different, with the venue being pretty much full by the time FM hit the stage. An extra treat was the addition of former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden to the bill. Whitesnake are one of my favourite bands, and he was one of the key reasons for their early success. I even got the chance to meet him before the show, and chat to him for a short while while he signed my LP copy of Live...in the Heart of the City, which just made the evening that little more special. He was one of the most down to earth musicians I have met too, which is always nice to find out.

His set was entirely acoustic, and played for about 40 minutes and helped to warm up the growing crowd with his songs and stories, many of which involved David Coverdale! Many of the songs played were from his time in Whitesnake, with Till the Day I Die getting things off to a good start, before the old blues standard Linin' Track shows that Marsden has a powerful singing voice of his own. Despite being more known for his guitar playing, this set was more vocally-focused with an acoustic guitar backing. Soloing on an acoustic guitar is always tricky, but he did throw in a few little lead sections. It was the Whitesnake songs that brought the biggest reaction from the crowd, and unfortunately large sections of the crowd decided to chat loudly through the others. I hate this behaviour at shows, as it is extremely disrespectful to the artist on stage. It is obviously more noticeable during acoustic sets, and I really wish people would have the sense to be quiet while the music is playing. Either that, or cut down on the drink! Ain't no Love in the Heart of the City had everyone singing along however, which was great to see, as did the closing Beatles cover With Love From Me to You. Despite the talking, Marsden's set was great. I would live to see one of his full band shows one day, but seeing his acoustic and getting to meet him will do for now! The setlist was:

Till the Day I Die [Whitesnake material]
Linin' Track [Traditional blues standard]
The Time is Right for Love [Whitesnake material]
The World Keep on Turning [Fleetwood Mac cover]
Ain't no Love in the Heart of the City [Bobby 'Blue' Bland cover]
Ain't Gonna Cry No More [Whitesnake material]
Key to the Highway [Traditional blues standard]
With Love From Me to You [The Beatles cover]

FM are one of those bands who should have been much bigger and more successful than they were. Indiscreet hit at the height of the AOR trend in the mid-1980s, and probably suffered for not being American! AOR was certainly an American-lead phenomenon, so FM were on the outside looking in. That being said, they did have moderate success at the time, and have remained pretty popular ever since. The sound that erupted when the lights went down was a testament to that success, and the band started strong with Digging up the Dirt from last year's Heroes and Villains. FM setlists are usually a good mix of old and new, but this evening was definitely a nostalgia fest (for obvious reasons) with most of the songs coming from the band's first two albums. The songs from Indiscreet were spread throughout the set, and not played in one big chunk, which I think worked better and helped to keep the set a surprise. I Belong to the Night, which is easily the best FM song, received one of the biggest cheers of the evening. Jem Davis (keyboards/harmonica/vocals) owns the song, with his synth stabs and keyboard leads dominating, before Steve Overland (vocals/guitar) belts out the anthemic chorus, helped out by the entire crowd. Another early highlight was the early single Let Love be the Leader, before Someday (I'll Come Running) was a surprise inclusion. Five songs from Indiscreet followed, none of which are set regulars these days. The high points of this section were definitely the bouncy Heart of the Matter and the smooth AOR of Hot Wired. The only song in the set that I felt did not really work was American Girls which just did not have the cheesy punch of the original album version. The keyboards were just not high enough in the mix for it, and it came off sounding rather flat. Bad Luck was a great cure for that though, and was another huge sing along moment for the crowd to really get behind. It was one of the many numbers played that featured fantastic guitar playing from Jim Kirkpatrick who played his heart out all evening. He has really given the band some youthful energy, and has been a key asset to FM over the past few years. The hit single That Girl and the heavy blues rock of Burning my Heart Down brought the main set to a close. There was time for more however, and the encore section started in mellow fashion with just Overland and Davis performing Story of my Life from 2013's Rockville. It was a good contrast to the rock that had come before, and was to come after, so this stripped back ballad was nice to hear. The final of the Indiscreet songs, Other Side of Midnight, was then played with Davis strapping on his keytar and rocking at the front of the stage with the rest of the band. I suppose that was real end of the set, but there were two more songs, both Whitesnake covers featuring Bernie Marsden. I have to be a bit critical here, as it all fell rather flat at this point. The band felt under-rehearsed for these songs and Overland clearly did not really know the lyrics, plus he does not really have the voice for these kinds of songs. Marsden's playing was spot on, but this little bonus at the end of the show really did not fly like it should have done. In contrast, FM did a similar thing when they headlined the Cambridge Rock Festival in 2014 where Marsden came on stage and they did Here I Go Again together. That time, Marsden sung it, and it all worked much better. It was a shame that it did not really work this time however, as it robbed the show of a truly stellar ending. The setlist was:

Digging up the Dirt
I Belong to the Night
Life is a Highway
Let Love be the Leader
Frozen Heart
Someday (I'll Come Running)
Face to Face
Love Lies Dying
Heart of the Matter
Hot Wired
American Girls
Bad Luck
Tough it Out
That Girl
Burning my Heart Down
-
Story of my Life
Other Side of Midnight
Walking in the Shadow of the Blues [Whitesnake cover w/ Bernie Marsden]
Here I Go Again [Whitesnake cover w/ Bernie Marsden]

Despite my reservations about the show's ending, FM still put on a fabulous performance celebrating their debut album and it's place in the world of 1980s AOR. The set featured quite a few songs that do not get played live too often, which is always a treat. I am sure it will not be too long before I see the band again, at least I hope not!

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