Faith No More. Red Rocks. 09.08.15
“Sorry it took us so long to get back here, we had to go get old.” The Faith No More reunion was nothing new by the time the band from San Francisco graced Colorado with its presence at Red Rocks. The Second Coming Tour kicked off in London over six years ago. Mike Patton and the boys saw countless countries before returning home to play The Warfield in 2010. More dates, more countries, and a new album followed, yet Colorado was still left hanging. So although it hadn’t been thirty years (as they claimed last night), they had kept their Rocky Mountain fans waiting for almost two decades. I don’t know the exact date (or venue) they last played here, but I’d have to guess it was around ’97 or ’98, for the Album of the Year Tour. The last time I saw them was in San Diego with Steel Pole Bath Tub for the King for a Day Tour in ’95, so it didn’t surprise me that Mike Bordin had gone grey, or that he needed a little oxygen assistance to pound away at his kit at 6,400 feet (“Dennis Hopper on drums!”), but what shocked the hell out of me was the agelessness of Mike Patton. I’ve seen the guy perform with various side-projects at various festivals through the years, but I’ve never seen him as alive as he was last night. The few technical difficulties the band experienced were largely erased by Patton’s unbelievable vocal range.
I consider myself a huge Faith No More fan based on the strength of a single album. Angel Dust is one of my favorite releases of the 90’s. The Real Thing and King for a Day… are also very strong albums with some great songs, but I never really listened to the band after (or before) those albums. Faith No More is not really a go-to band for me these days. So I’m not really sure why I was so excited to see them on this tour. I’d seen them before…when I was young…when they were young…in small venues. And I didn’t think they could top those shows. But when they announced the date at Red Rocks, I just kind of assumed everyone would be going. So I was a little shocked at the lukewarm response I received from friends. “I’m not really that into them.” As it turned out, they were not in the minority. As the stage was being set last night, the venue wasn’t even close to full. Faith No More had finally made it back to Colorado, but it seemed they were a little too late. They couldn’t sell out Red Rocks. Which was a real shame, because they delivered one of the best rock performances of the entire season.
The stage was set in white. White cloths covered the ground. All white instruments stood against the natural rock backdrop. Even the amplifiers were draped in white as roadies filled white vases with bouquet after bouquet of colorful flowers. And just to add to the confusion of those few people in the crowd who didn’t know what to expect from the band, the amphitheater was filled with the sounds of showtunes. As the anticipation started to grow, the schizophrenia started to take hold. The classical strings of movie scores gave way to The 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius”, and as that song bled into Primal Scream’s “Loaded”, the free love of the 60’s was lost in the 80’s hangover of 1990. Then, as if they hadn’t twisted things enough, Rihanna’s “Stay” was left to play all the way through Mikky Ekko’s verse, before being cut short by a group men in matching (blinding) white outfits led by Mike Patton. “Get the motherfucker on the phone, the phone!” It was 9:30pm and I had to check my ears for blood. Faith No More were back! And they were back with a vengeance! After that opening track, which I found so much more appealing live than I do on the album, the band provided a triple helping of Angel Dust. “Be Aggressive” led into “Caffeine”, which was followed by “Everything’s Ruined”…and the decibel levels took a step up with each selection.
This recap is being written from the center of the thirteenth row. I can’t speak for how the sound traveled up to the back rows, or how it balanced itself along the stairs, but having attended well over a hundred shows at Red Rocks, I think Faith No More were the loudest rock band I have ever seen there. Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails are the only other bands who even come close. It wasn’t just the decibel level though. The lighting made things that much more intense. I’m not sure why more bands don’t utilize white light, because it is effective as hell. Especially when you bathe things in a low red or blue for a minute before blasting back out in full, living color. It’s all so real, yet larger than life, and when it’s all moving in front of the rocks, there’s really nothing like it. It was so intense that it made joking about it almost necessary…just to keep things grounded. “It’s great to be back in Colorado, but man, what a dump!” Patton replied in a very Pattonesque way, “Where do we begin? Nice fucking place you have here. I want to get right up there on that rock and piss on everyone.” It wasn’t long after that off-color comment when he dove into the audience. If you’ve ever been to Red Rocks, you understand that diving into the audience is not an easy task. So when his dive succeed in some legitimate crowd surfing, all attention was driven away from the fact that Roddy Bottum’s broken keyboard was being replaced. Patton was the perfect distraction.
Patton’s antics did run a little longer than expected, so he had trouble getting back on stage and on-point for “Epic”. Probably their biggest hit, the band got away from their leader in the beginning, which was unfortunate, because the rest of the song was spent playing catch-up. They ended up pulling it off, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t messy. They passed the recovery test though. Taking advantage of “Black Friday” to get their bearings again, the five-piece was in lockstep when it mattered. And it mattered during “Midlife Crisis”. Probably my favorite Faith No More song, I don’t think I was alone in straining my own vocal chords (“You’re perfect, yes, it’s true!”) to the words that hit home now a lot more than they did when the song was written. The band slowed things down and gave into the audience advancement mid-track, and although I think we did a pretty good Patton imitation, he took the reins back to show us how it’s supposed to be done…Boz Skaggs style. It was also during that track when I realized that while Patton might owe a little something to Skaggs at times, Samuel T. Herring (of Future Islands) owes quite a bit to Patton when it comes to his stage persona. After a quick, megaphone-assisted “Last Cup of Sorrow”, we were beaten down with one of the heaviest cuts of the night. “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” was almost too much to take…but in such a good way.
If Faith No More know one thing, it is how to balance the dark with the light, the aggressive with the soothing, and the sadism with the masochism, so after they “never felt this much alive!!!” while beating us down, the disco ball turned the rocks into a carefree Sunday morning with their famous take on the Commodores’ “Easy”. The Colorado crowd took the lyrics literally (“I wanna be high, so high”) as thick smoke muted the thousands of spinning disco speckles. That would be the last song from Angel Dust, but “Separation Anxiety” and “Superhero” just solidified my desire to spend more time with Sol Invictus. “King for a Day” was a well-received funked out surprise, and although I would have preferred another one from The Real Thing, “Ashes to Ashes” didn’t sound bad at all. It was just after 10:30pm when the parting words were uttered, “Thank you Red Rocks, we’re Faith No More.” They had only been on stage for an hour and it had already been one of my favorite shows of the season, so when they came back minutes later (“Ladies and gentlemen, you are so kind, how about we just tone it down a bit though”) for Patton to practice his whistling skills during a Burt Bacharach cover, it was like dumping thick gravy on what had already been a smorgasbord of a night.
It could have ended with “Matador”, but pulling out an old Chuck Mosley track really tied the whole set together. “We Care A Lot” is a pretty basic song considering everything else we’d been through, but it was just the right kind of dumb fun we needed to be sent on our way. I can’t claim to have experienced Faith No More at every milestone in their career as a band, but what I witnessed last night was not a band that went and got old. What I witnessed was a band that went and got great. There were technical difficulties, and Bordin seemed to have slight problems with the altitude, and it wasn’t even near sold-out, but it was hands down one of the best performances of the year despite all that. It was worth not being able to fall asleep due to the ringing in my ears. It was worth waking up exhausted this morning…with the ringing still in my ears. And it was worth staying up late tonight to relive it through words…with the (slightly diminished) ringing still in my ears.
Last Cup of Sorrow
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
This Guy’s in Love With You
We Care a Lot