LIVE: Funeral For A Friend / Gnarwolves / Polar. @ Electric Ballroom, London [03/10/13]

By Ben Tipple

Photo by Warren Miller

Everything about tonight’s Funeral For A Friend set screams nostalgia. Substantiated rumours that the Welsh wonders are playing ‘Four Ways To Scream Your Name’ in full are rife, despite being half-heartedly discouraged by frontman Matt Davies some way through the set. With that in mind, the Electric Ballroom is buzzing with a comparably high number of long-term fans, judged by an educated guess surveying the crowd.

It’s of little surprise in that case that the Guildford hardcore lot Polar. (unfortunately we only managed to arrive to see the last Moose Blood track, who appeared to have amped up their screams to cater for tonight’s crowd) drew a largely nonchalant crowd. With the majority of fans choosing to bide their arrival time in favour of tonight’s headliners, the screams and requests for real pits fall predominantly on deaf ears. Some patchy moments in the dual vocal set-up do little to bulk up the force required from the band, yet there are clearly some potentially excellent moments – not least in their more intricate newer material.

Gnarwolves fair a little better in terms of crowd response with their trademark combination of high-tempo punk and subdued melody. More in-line with what fans are expecting tonight, they mainly blast through tracks from their most recent material. The opening moments of ‘Limerence’ sound suitably cracked, and closer ‘Melody Has Big Plans’ incites some excellent mistimed stage diving to the bewilderment of security. As vocalist and bass aficionado Charlie Piper joins the divers at the very end of the set, the honest punk sensibilities in their sound have hit all the right marks.

Immediately throwing themselves into all four tracks from their debut 2002 EP ‘Between Order and Model’, Funeral For A Friend aren’t holding back. Initially the band sound excellent, encouraging huge sing-alongs for the likes of ‘Juneau’ and ‘Red Is The New Black’. It is the older material that shines bright tonight, and deservedly so. Before eventually finishing, as promised, on ‘Four Ways To Scream Your Name’, it is evident that Funeral are still revered for their early naughties output.

It’s easy to find a distinction between new and old in any fan’s eyes (or more appropriately, ears), particularly those of an older generation. This ease lends itself to judging the newer material more harshly. Tonight however, the band are distinctly better at performing the older material. The handful of tracks from ‘Conduit’ and ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ effectively drown out Davies’ vocals, sounding muddier for it. Melody driven tracks like ‘Sixteen’ (despite the pause for an injured punter) avoid the consistent pitfall, yet fail to counteract the fact that the older material simply lends itself better to a live performance – regardless of the audience.

To claim that Funeral For A Friend are living on the coattails of their past successes would be entirely unfair. The band still know how to enthuse a crowd and pull together one hell of an energetic performance. Any discrepancy between the old and the new in the fan’s opinion is entirely that of personal taste, however performance wise tonight, the old steals the show. It is melody in which Funeral For A Friend excel, not thrash. Where melody reigns supreme, so do Funeral For A Friend.