Been looking forward to the relaunch of the” Fat White Family” and their third album “Serfs Up”. Like most people a little intrigued to see how it would work out in the live setting.
Support were provided by two bands who I have reviewed before. Hitting the stage at 7.30 were “Pregoblin” who are really entertaining and have a few good crowd rousing songs. The two vocalists despite the early hour and the fairly sparse crowd, got into the performance and duetted throughout the set. The question that came to mind is are they or are they not a couple? It was still unclear after 30 minutes to be honest.
Like all the bands on offer this evening the common link is the music scene in Brixton. Second support was provided by “Black Country, New Road” one of the next generation of Brixton muso’s. Think Lou Reed (Velvet Underground) with a bit of jazz and discordant saxophone and violin and you are getting there. Since I saw them last time there sound is thicker, additional guitar has been added and some of the previous spoken vocals have been speeded up i.e. singing. In reality it was probably necessary to get them a wider appeal from the off.
The O2 forum was packed and sweaty and once I had left the front to use the toilets there was no getting back so I viewed FWF from a distance. The set started with a call to prayer, underlying the spirituality that is evident in the new album and in some of the symbolism enacted by Lias on stage.
I feel that they are also possibly going for their best shot currently at wider fame, as sleeping on peoples sofas and starving has probably lost its rock and roll glamour by now. Starting way back in 2011 they took a couple of years out for solo projects recently but are back more solid in the live setting than ever. Inevitably a bit of their original raw appeal has been softened over the years but Lias still spent 50% of his time in various shapes being thrown about in the audience.
The set list below was clever. They managed to work in half the new album but pandering to the audiences desire for the classics. Now with two synth players the sound is inevitably fuller and there are lots of electronic drum rhythms punctuating the new songs. As the set started I thought they may stick to the more exuberant new material but they bravely shared a few songs that are in many ways light years away from songs like “Touch the Leather “and “I am Mark. E.Smith”. But I would argue you still know it’s them. The new album is clearly influenced by the various band member’s solo projects and ideas they tried out in their other incarnations. If you haven’t already got acquainted look up “Moonlandingz” as well as “Insecure Men” and “Warmduscher”.
As mentioned earlier they are having fun with spirituality in their current persona’s and Lias was sporting what originally looked like a shaved head but actually turned out to be closer to a cross between Bill Bailey and a monk. Makes perfect sense.
They played for about 75 minutes working in a couple of songs from the debut album and finishing with “Bomb Disneyland”. I still think they are very much in the running for my band of this particular decade and I have really enjoyed the way they have challenged themselves.
A reviewer in another column did point out that they seem to have replaced heroin chic with slightly chubby success. I don’t think you can knock them enjoying any success they might attract but perhaps the next phase is regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet. But for us musical voyeurs clearly not so much fun in that.
Set list courtesy of setlistfm.com
When I Leave
I Am Mark E. Smith
Hits Hits Hits
(first time live)
Touch the Leather
Whitest Boy on the Beach
Cream of the Young
Tastes Good With the Money
(with Baxter Dury)
I Believe in Something Better