REVIEW: FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND @ Y PLAS, CARDIFF (28.10.19)
After several years of being officially disbanded, Funeral For A Friend shocked everyone by announcing that they would be getting back together for three shows (two in Cardiff and one in London) in support of their departed friend Stuart Brothers. We were promised us a throwback set full of songs from the early albums as well as the return of some of the band’s original members! Having got an opportunity to attend the second of the two Cardiff shows at the last minute, I got myself down to the awesome Y Plas venue (contained within Cardiff University’s Students Union) to see what looked like it would be an incredible show.
Starting us off that night was solo acoustic act Pay The Man, the brainchild of Kyle David Smith (Icantdie, ex-Caesar’s Rome). It was a very unusual sight to see a solo acoustic act opening up for a bill that was otherwise comprised of loud rock bands, but Kyle took that in his stride as he delivered a fantastic performance.
His performance as Pay The Man avoided a lot of the typical singer-songwriter cliches, delivering songs about the trials and tribulations of life with surprisingly technical guitar work and brilliant vocal performances all round. If this small opening performance was anything to go by, there’s a great future ahead for Pay The Man as a project.
ROCKODILE RATING: 10/10
Next up on the bill that night were Raiders. A band formed out of the ashes of the infamous Welsh legends The Blackout, they launched into their brand of twisted, sludgy post-hardcore reminiscent of bands like Letlive and Glassjaw as soon as they took to the stage. Sean Smith was as wild and charismatic as ever, throwing his microphone around whilst lurching back and forth between banshee-like screams, gritty melodic vocals and throwing out hilarious interactions with the crowd between songs. The highlight of Sean’s crowd banter has to be him getting people to do a painfully slow circle pit, followed up by an equally painfully slow wall of death!
For a band that only have one officially released song and only this year started becoming properly active, they got an absolutely fantastic reception. It’s no surprise, then, that the entire audience came away from Raiders’ set feeling thoroughly entertained and warmed up for the night’s main event.
ROCKODILE RATING: 10/10
Finally, the time came for what we were all waiting for. After a supremely cheesy interval playlist that got everyone singing along to songs like “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Bridgend’s legendary sons Funeral For A Friend took to the stage to Thin Lizzy’s classic “The Boys Are Back In Town”. What followed after that was a set of classic song after classic song, mainly drawn from their early releases. Tracks such as “All The Rage”, “Streetcar” and “She Drove Me To Daytime Television” got the crowd singing louder at some points than lead singer Matthew Davis-Kreye!
The only song to be played that drew outside of those classic records was “Into Oblivion (Reunion)” from their third album Tales Don’t Tell Themselves, which was played near the end of the band’s set. Considering the melancholy yet uplifting nature of that song and the fact that it is considered a classic Funeral For A Friend track (even though it lies outside of those early releases), it made a lot of sense that it was included.
One of the coolest aspects of their set was that the majority of the songs were played with a three guitarist setup - original guitarist Darran Smith had returned to join his former colleague Kris Coombs-Roberts and his replacement Gavin Burrough on stage. This was a fantastic choice as the three guitarists playing together created a huge wall of sound, creating something that sounded closer to the original recordings. Original drummer/screamer Ryan Richards was back in the saddle too - he tore up those classic tracks like he'd never been away!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a reunion show without some cheeky guest spots! One of those came from Sean Smith, who got up on stage again to perform screamed vocals on one song. In typical Sean Smith style, he got a good crowdsurf in during his short time on stage, yet again reminding everyone how fantastic he is at what he does.
Throughout the show we were reminded by every act as to who this show was for, but it was most poignant once Matthew Davis-Kreye delivered a teary-eyed eulogy to Stuart Brothers. It was immediately obvious how much Stuart meant to the band through Matthew’s heartfelt speech about how much of the community around the band Stuart helped to create and it couldn’t stop me from thinking about how, in many ways, dedicated fans are one of the most important things about the community that builds around a music scene. Stuart Brothers was clearly more than just a fan of Funeral For A Friend - he was family.
Closing with “History”, Funeral For A Friend departed from the stage for one of the last times in their storied and illustrious career, with heavy hearts but a feeling of great release from getting to play those classic songs one last time for their fallen brother. This was not only a beautiful and touching tribute to a fallen friend, but also one to the band itself. It’s very likely we will never see Funeral For A Friend perform live again outside of those three memorial shows and, if they really are gone forever, that was the perfect way to close out the career of one of the last bastions of an older generation of the Welsh rock scene.
ROCKODILE RATING: 10/10
Words by Robert Percy