By Danielle Partis
Some remember it like it was yesterday, some don’t remember it all, and some of us were too drunk to recall the events of it, but one thing we can all agree on, was that the 80s definitely did happen, and they were a blast indeed. Tonight’s show is set to throw 600 loyal rock fans in to a metaphorical Delorean and launch them back in to 1986, to a time when shoulder pads were big, and the hair was even bigger.
The Deborah Bonham band opened to a disappointingly small crowd; however they took the whole venue by storm. Their material was beautifully structured; a toe-tapping southern rocky sound with bluesy undertones, and catchy yet emotive songs that had the crowd drifting from corners of the room towards the stage like a high powered magnet. Debbie’s name is instantly recognisable, and the band have a clear Zeppelin influence, but she should by no means be living behind her late brother’s shadow. Her voice was extravagant; carefully subtle and sexy in places, and beautifully sonorous when necessary. Although their set was short, they were the perfect starter for what was about to occur.
I wasn’t the only member of the audience left in awe after Deborah’s performance, and that only added to the anticipation for Romeo’s Daughter. I was apprehensive about how different they would sound, but hell, I had no reason to be. Leigh Matty’s stage presence and vocal performance together was so encapsulating, you could have closed your eyes and been in 1986. Especially seeing as the band supported FM on the original Indiscreet tour. They went on to play a selection of classic tracks in their regrettably small back catalogue; ‘Velvet Tongue’, and one of my personal favourites ‘Attracted to the Animal’. This song managed to accumulate the same amount of energy as a large Hadrons Collider; I didn’t think that much energy could correlate in one small space.
The songs Romeo’s Daughter has written are of such an amazing quality, they should be performed in stadiums. How they never escalated to be as size of their producer-sharing predecessors Def Leppard is beyond me. Though what makes them even more entertaining is that they seem to take in to account every single person in the audience. Craig Joiner and Tony Mitman put a hell of a lot of energy in to their performance also, and their playing was flawless - almost a carbon copy of the recordings, which was fantastic. After performing ‘Keep Walking’, a song to be featured on their upcoming album ‘Rapture’, Romeo’s Daughter ended with two of their biggest hits, the first being ‘Cry Myself to Sleep At Night’. The sense of unity within the crowd at this point was unexplainable; and the band performed it to perfection. They ended the set with ‘Wild Child’ a fantastic fan favourite, and this was shown by the chorus of fans yelling along with Leigh, who again, performed impeccably. Although Romeo’s Daughter, with their array of synthesisers and harmonies, sound like they should be occupying the MEN as opposed to Academy 2, they managed to keep the gig so intimate and interesting, and that was one of the main aspects that made them so enjoyable. And of course, by far, the best and only band that should be opening for the headlining act.
Now, considering the purpose of this tour, it wouldn’t be right for FM to take to the stage without first opening without a cheesy introduction reminiscent of the era they were celebrating. So that’s exactly what they did. A cheesy monologue about huge shoulder pads and huger hair, followed by silence. The audience were silent too, as though they felt obliged to be, and as soon as Steve Overland struck that first chord of ‘That Girl’, the whole venue erupted. It was soon evident that FM fans do not do things by halves, and every word Overland sang, they followed. Every single person in that room knew every single utterance about to leave that man’s mouth, and it was nothing short of extraordinary. Interplay between the band and crowd was more likable to a large family rather than a band and their audience. From the opening of ‘That Girl’ to their fantastic cover of Rod Stewart’s ‘Hot Legs’ to close the show, FM gave nothing but 110% to the crowd, and they gave back twice as much.
FM proceeded to play through the ‘Indiscreet album’ never lowering their stance or slowing down. I was pleasantly surprised by the stage presence of Merv Goldsworthy especially. I had the pleasure of meeting the guys before the show, and Merv came across as quite the reserved chap, however, onstage, he cut loose with the swagger and avidity of the young, handsome fluffy haired bass man he was on the album. Jim Kirkpatrick, despite being a recent addition to FM, was certainly accepted by fans too. He brought a new twist to the classic Indiscreet licks and riffs, but that was by no means a bad thing. One thing that didn’t go amiss was the glances of admiration being fired between Jim, Merv and Steve across the front of the stage. It’s clear to see that even after all this time, FM never take one single thing for granted. They stand up there and they make that stage their own, but will always take the fans along for the ride, which is definitely a contributing factor to why the followers have remained so loyal for 25 years.
After closing the classic ‘Frozen Heart’, a song that hardly needed Overland’s input as the fans had it covered, the band stopped to announce they had a surprise for Manchester tonight. It would be typical of me to be the only one out of 600 fans expecting what was to come, as I’d accidently encountered the ‘surprise’ backstage eating crisps. FM was joined by their former but by no means old, keyboard player and all round sci-fi geek Phil Manchester, better known as ‘Didge Digital’. They then went on to play Heart of the Matter, which was nothing short of epic. This song, as it does on the album, ended as if it was going to end the show also, which FM could have easily done, and every single member of that audience would have walked away with a wide grin of nostalgic satisfaction.
But just like the fans, FM sure does not do things by halves.
After wandering offstage and almost convincing us they were finished, the traditional ‘we want more’ foot stomp began, and Pete Jupp returned to his kit, shortly followed by Jim and Merv, and finally Steve. It was evident that the show was far from over. They launched in to something more recent, ‘Dangerous’, from their 2009 EP Wildside. Followed by a personal favourite of mine; ‘Let Love Be the Leader’. This track is catchier than a summer sniffle, complete with its infectious chorus of ‘whoa oh’ that could only be synonymous with a crowd like this. Overland’s vocals on this track particularly just blew me away.
They then moved it up to 1989, performing their fantastically catchy ‘Tough it Out’ the title track from their second album. This album was essentially Indiscreet volume II; every song on it is sheer 80s wonderment and the band picked an array of the best ones from it to play next. Including the crooner ‘Does it Feel Like love’, which had every member of the audience waving their lighters (or rather their iPhone lighter apps) in time, and the fan favourite ‘Bad Luck’, which, judging by the way Merv was darting around, pointing and winking at the first few rows - wasn’t just an audience pleaser.
By the time FM had reached the show closer, I think most of the audience had subliminally concluded that they had heard enough. The band put their last bursts of energy in to an impeccable cover of Rod Stewart’s ‘Hot Legs’, a song they had made their own once before and were about to do it all over again. Every single member wailed, strummed, plucked, beat and tapped their hearts out to the very last note of the show, and as soon as they hit it, the love and appreciation echoing Manchester Academy 2 was nearly enough to blow the roof off. FM hadn’t just played another show - they had created another etching in time that fans will remember for years to come, and what was even better is that they did it all exactly how they would have done it 25 years ago, if not better. I regret to state that this was my first time seeing FM, after being a fan for quite a while, and I can honestly say that this was one of the most satisfying gigs I’ve ever seen. Not just in terms of musical quality, but more the sense of crowd unity. I have never seen a band with such a large yet close assimilation of such committed fans and reciprocation of passion, and honestly, FM deserve every last bit of respect they earn.
The entire show was a complete masterpiece, from musicianship to production, timing to crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening. The only thing I do regret is not being around to see it all the first time! Not only are FM and Romeo's Daughter timeless bands; their perpetuality and energy makes them a pair of acts that will be surely be enjoyed by old and new fans for many years to come.
FM has released a new live DVD ‘Live in Europe’ which can be purchased from their web store.