“The end of an era” – that’s the only appropriate way of describing Funeral for a Friend’s “Last Chance to Dance” tour, rounding out approximately 15 years of one of the UK’s finest alternative acts in terms of 21st century rock music, subsequently influencing a whole new generation of bands alongside fellow Welsh contemporaries Bullet for My Valentine and Lostprophets. The group’s suitably named “Last Chance to Dance” tour consisted of two dates in major UK cities, with the band performing Hours in its entirety at the first show and Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation in its entirety at the second. The show I attended was the second of the two Birmingham gigs, meaning myself and everyone else in attendance were treated to the Casually Dressed record in full as well as a concluding encore of songs from other albums.
As you can imagine, being the support acts on a tour like this is quite the honour, and that particular attitude was reflected strongly in both of the opening bands that were present. The first of which to perform on the night was Zoax, who I admittedly had never heard of prior to seeing them live at the show itself. Initially I was quite skeptical due to some of the expected internet ramblings which are fond of criticizing bands rather than complimenting them, but overall I quite enjoyed their set, further backed by the surprisingly dense crowd which had formed inside the Institute so early on. In terms of their setlist, Zoax only performed a total of seven songs, including tracks such as “Lonely Souls”, “Devil’s Dance” and “The Wave”, before ending on “Bitter.Angry.Fake” and “Ksychia”. The group was much better than I had first predicted and served as a positive opening act for the rest of the gig.
After a short break and an impromptu chat with some of Zoax down at their merch table, the next band on was the direct support act Shai Hulud, a band I had been told beforehand by a friend were rather good. While the opening act Zoax played seven songs as previously mentioned, Shai Hulud only played eight, which resulted in quite a short set considering the slot they had on the bill. A live cover of the NOFX track “Linoleum” came towards the end, with original material being performed by the group included songs such as “A Human Falling”, “Set Your Body Ablaze”, and a performance of “Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life” along with Funeral for a Friend vocalist Matt Davies-Kreye. At one point a brief jam of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” was heard, before Shai Hulud ended on their song “Misanthropy Pure”. Like Zoax before them, Shai Hulud delivered a positive set which again trumped all expectations that were had beforehand, again due to online naysayers.
The final band of the night was of course Funeral for a Friend, with what was initially planned to be their final show before splitting up, if it weren’t for the announcement of two more London dates in the coming weeks. Anticipation and also a slight sense of sombreness lurked in the atmosphere of the venue before the band took to the Birmingham stage for the final time, performing a total of twenty songs: the first twelve of which being the band’s acclaimed 2003 release Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation from start to finish. Every song received immense applause from the audience that had sold out the Institute venue, before paving way for an eight song “encore” if you will of songs from across Funeral for a Friend’s general discography. This final set of songs which were performed included tracks such as “10 Scene Points to the Winner”, “The Art of American Football”, “This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak”, “10:45 Amsterdam Conversations”, and the gig closer “Roses for the Dead”. While the set was for the most part positive, I felt that it went on for a bit longer than it needed to, but I can understand this aspect of it since it was the final time the group would perform together on tour, so it’s the only minor gripe I have with the whole performance.
Considering it was only five months since I saw Motley Crue say farewell to the same city, seeing Funeral for a Friend play their final Birmingham show was both a goodbye but at the same time a celebration of one of the UK’s most important contemporary alternative acts. While in their own words they did everything they aspired to do as Funeral for a Friend, one cannot feel slightly sad at the thought of their split, even if it’s not due to any sort of malicious feelings. These feelings of sadness were echoed by Shai Hulud member Matt Fox repeatedly throughout their set, really emphasizing the occasion at hand. Nonetheless, it is clear that the members of Funeral for a Friend will receive substantial support if they choose to continue onwards with their musical endeavors in the near or distant future.