In Hollywood with Faith No More
“Jesus, Mike Patton is ageless, isn’t he?” my friend Ben remarked when Faith No More (holy shit, Faith No More!) took the stage last Tuesday night at the Hollywood Palladium.
Dude’s a regular Orson Welles, hopefully without the latter-period weight gain and unfortunate frozen pea voiceovers.
Meanwhile, in fanboy land, we check in with one DJ Hostettler, who flew to Los Angeles to see one of the most important bands of his youth relive their glory days. I’m not sure if it’s possible to overstate how important Faith No More were to my musical development; about a year before Nirvana rendered hair metal obsolete, FNM’s messed up day-glo video for their “Epic” breakthrough (which, hilariously, I hated at first listen), revealed to me that there was quality music to be found beyond the Aquanet and spandex of Motley Crüe and Poison.
So it was sort of funny to drive down Sunset Boulevard, past classic butt-rock dives like the Whiskey and the Rainbow, only to end up at the Hollywood Palladium for the FNM reunion. A driving tour through the scene I worshipped in high school, only to arrive at the band that cast it into my rear view.
The teenage flashbacks continued inside the swank (if Eagles-Ballroom-comparable, sound-wise) confines of the Palladium, as the entire affair had the feel of concerts I attended at the Brown County Arena in my youth.
Anxious fans jockeying for position on the floor? Check. Vague scent of diggity dank hanging in the air? Check. Dude turning toward Ben and me to gauge our desire to, how you say, “mosh?” Checkmate.
“So, I like to get a feel for my neighbors at shows like these, to see how in danger I am of getting slammed into.”
“No worries dude. I intend to dance and pogo, but plan to stay in my own personal space. Of course, if a sea of humanity carries us all toward the front of the stage, all bets are off.”
And once the band, resplendent in the vintage suit motif they’ve cultivated at least since the “Ashes to Ashes” video, followed up their set-opening cover of Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited” with “From Out of Nowhere,” the leadoff single from 1989’s The Real Thing, well…all bets were off. This was not a show for people who enjoy standing and bobbing their heads while a band brings the pain; nay, this was a night of fools going berserk…and in some cases, nearly coming to blows.
Our immediate vicinity was briefly terrorized by some fat, glassy-eyed dude about 50 pounds shy of the Kingpin of Crime and intent on slamming into the most folks before getting distracted by a vengeful Boy Named Sue (no, really, that was his name. So awesome) who wasn’t shy about throwing fists. I’ll never understand the need to fight or be maliciously violent at a rock show, but say this for Sue—bro did the rest of us a solid, doing his namesake proud while allowing the rest of us to focus on the TRUCKLOADS OF AWESOME pouring off the stage.
Digest this set list, y’all:
Reunited (Peaches & Herb cover)
From Out of Nowhere
Surprise! You’re Dead!
Chinese Arithmetic (Poker Face – Lady Gaga Intro)
Last Cup of Sorrow
Cuckoo for Caca
Easy (The Commodores cover)
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
I Started a Joke (Bee Gees cover)
Ashes to Ashes
Just a Man
Chariots of Fire (Vangelis cover)
We Care a Lot
This Guy’s in Love with You (Burt Bacharach cover)
“From Out of Nowhere” straight into “Everything’s Ruined” was a nail-encrusted baseball bat to the face—a relentless one-two punch to really kickstart the set (by the way, have you ever seen the video for “Everything’s Ruined?” It’s larftacular). From there, all the classic FNM set touchpoints were tagged—the Patton pop culture riff (a few lines of “Poker Face” over Introduce Yourself’s “Chinese Arithmetic”), the unexpected deep cut (“Helpless” off 1997’s Album of the Year? Huh, okay), and the long-standard tribute to 70s AM Gold.
The band didn’t miss a note during the entire 90-minute show, reminding us all that there was a reason why these guys were our favorite band way back when—they are astounding musicians. There was no shortage of transcendent moments: Patton’s screams during “Cuckoo for Caca” were processed just enough to sound positively alien; his request that the audience hum the opening note of “Spirit” resulted in an impressively rowdy drone that served as a spine-tingling bed for the gorgeous four part a capella harmony that opens the tune.
Were there disappointing omissions? Well, sure, but complaining that they didn’t play “As the Worm Turns” or “Digging the Grave” would be like being offered water in the Sahara and complaining that it wasn’t filtered.
But since I’m on the subject, I will say that I’m sure no one would have cared if one of those replaced the obligatory “Epic.” It’s telling that the single FNM is most remembered for among People Who Listen To All Kinds of Music Except Country and Rap was far from the most enthusiastically received amongst the devotees. The two times I’ve seen FNM, it’s felt like everyone in the audience is resigned to hearing “the hit,” assuming that someone in the audience wants it. But if someone actually spoke up and said, “hey guys, it’s ok—you can play something else instead; we all know you have better stuff in the deep cuts,” not a soul would argue.
After finally delivering the classic “We Care A Lot” during the second encore, Patton motioned to keyboardist Roddy Bottum that it was time to wrap things up, seemingly indicating that the voice was wearing out. Hard to believe that the man with more range and control than any in the world of rock (hey, I’d like to see you go from croon to throat-shredding scream in .6 seconds) would ever run out of gas, but our hero isn’t in his 20s anymore. The band bid adieu with Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s in Love with You,” bringing things full circle and leaving us to spill out into the chilly Hollywood night, drenched in sweat but too amped on adrenaline to freeze (yes, there was actually a nip in the Southern California air to match the day’s date).
We piled back in the car secure in the knowledge that we’d be remembering this night for years, if not forever. Aw, man—just like Brown County Arena!
Dear Faith No More: thanks for warping time and space to bring us a reminder that once upon a time you guys were the weirdest, most inventive, daring band to have graced the mainstream. Scratch that—you still are. And ok, maybe you actually are aging, but the ass-kickery you unleashed on us? That shit is timeless.
*Cover photo from the 2009 Leeds Festival, courtesy of Fictional Future via Flickr.