When Funeral for a Friend announced their break-up and ‘Last Chance To Dance’ tour in September 2015, much of the rock world was left heartbroken. Funeral are one of those rare special bands that for many, have held a very important place in their hearts and to this day, have remained an integral influence on the post-hardcore scene. Without them, many of the bands around today simply would not exist. Over the last 15 years, Funeral for a Friend have released seven studio albums, seven EPs and 30 singles, but for the band and fans alike, it is the first two albums that hold the most significance – their phenomenal debut Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation, and their defining sophomore record, Hours. Tonight then, is bittersweet. On the one hand, we’re getting to hear Funeral for a Friend play their landmark record Hours in full; on the flipside, we will be hearing these songs live for the very last time.
Before we begin to say our final goodbyes to the Bridgend legends, we have music from first support band ZOAX, who recently released their self-titled debut album which we liked a lot. In a broad Irish accent, frontman Adam Carroll demands: “Shush! Shut the fuck up, you’re at a gig!” It has the desired effect, with the taken aback audience stunned into silence and after a beat, we are devoured by the throes of opening track ‘Ksychia’. Carroll’s unsettling stare gives him the possessed look of an utter madman, and we are left transfixed by the band’s unique heavy rock with touches of groove. Some of the audience are left unmoved however, some offended by Carroll’s earlier assertion and aggressive demeanour. Sensing this, the vocalist decides to jump off the stage and walk up to The Forum‘s balcony (just how long was that microphone cable?!), belting out the remainder of the song up there whilst his bandmates continue to slay onstage. ZOAX end their rollercoaster of a set with the epic ‘The Wave’ and when the band exit, the crowd are left bemused and bewildered as to what the hell they have just witnessed, with many, us included, intrigued by this strange phenomenon. We can’t wait to see them hit the stage again!
Raging Speedhorn are a bit of an odd choice as main support to Funeral for a Friend, and their crushingly heavy set does little to impress the majority of the crowd, bar a few people who push their way to the front to rock out with the British metallers. At another time or place, this would be a pretty great set, but right now all people really want are FFAF.
Funeral for a Friend arrive modestly on stage to no dramatic fanfare, nor do they have a lavish stage set up. “What were you expecting, some dramatic music to show how great we are?” laughs frontman Matt Davies. Truth be told, none of this would have been fitting for FFAF. After a quick “right, let’s do this”, the band launch straight into ‘All The Rage’, with full choir backing from the 2000-strong crowd, who are singing their hearts out to every word. Classics ‘Streetcar’ and ‘Roses For The Dead’ follow, and the floor is absolutely mental with pits front to back, with fists raised and voices singing in perfect unison. Mid-set, Davies makes a heartfelt and touching speech about equality, a subject close to his and the band’s hearts, before perhaps the most poignant of all Funeral’s songs, ‘History’, as the crowd prepare to raise their fingers for one last salute.
Tonight is not without surprises, one of them being the inclusion of Tales Don’t Tell Themselves track ‘Into Oblivion’ in the set, a song which the band had vowed never to play live again, and it has everyone bouncing with glee. The biggest surprise however, is the appearance of former band members Darran Smith and Matt Evans, who arrive to raucous cheers. Wasting no time with a pretentious encore, Funeral explode into penultimate track and fan favourite ‘Juneau’, with emotions running high as the crowd realise their last chance to dance is drawing nearer. FFAF close with the colossal ‘Escape Artists Never Die’ and the floor is a wave of crowd surfers and sweaty bodies. Complete strangers hug each other and sing the words along with the band for the final time, and many tears are shed. It’s the perfect way to end an unforgettable evening, and an incredible 15 years.
After a heartfelt thank you to the fans who have supported them, and in their words “gave a shit” about their band, Matt Davies ends: “For those of you who we are seeing tomorrow, goodnight. For those of you who are only with us tonight – goodbye.”
Thank you for the music guys – you will be missed.