Conventional reunited bands give fans what's expected. The often heavy but always mischievous Bay Area quintet Faith No More launched their first local show in 12 years at the Warfield Theatre last night with an accurate rendering of Peaches & Herb's "Reunited," the ultimate disco-era, slow-dance anthem. Their suits were so prom-ready that each left lapel was pinned with a boutonniere. While singer Mike Patton crooned and waved with aplomb, his fellow members rode the smooth soul groove as if their hot tub payments depended on it.
Despite their mainstream popularity in 1990 with the rap-rock anthem "Epic," Faith No More's American success is most accurately measured by the number of bands they inspired — Limp Bizkit, Korn, Linkin Park, Incubus and many others. While MTV turned a cold shoulder to FNM's experimental 1992 album Angel Dust, the group became bigger than ever in most every other territory, and is still regarded as a major overseas attraction. Since last August, the band that began in 1981 and split in 1998 has toured and played major festivals in Europe, Israel, Mexico, South America, New Zealand, and Australia.
All this activity has clearly sharpened the band's reflexes: Deep into the set, the group abruptly pulled the plug on "Midlife Crisis" right before the final chorus. The audience sang it without accompaniment, and without missing a beat, the band launched into several introductory bars of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," and then segued back into "Midlife" 's chorus. Mike Bordin's experience as Ozzy Osbourne's rhythmic disciplinarian was evident: No matter how many musical curve balls the others threw, this master drummer kept the beat rock-steady: "Evidence" glided like a jazzy Steely Dan jam; thrashing metal workouts like "Surprise! You're Dead" and "Cukoo for Caca" set mosh pits in motion, while covers of the Commodores' "Easy," the Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard "This Guy's in Love With You," and the Chariots of Fire soundtrack theme song all sounded as slick as they should.
American opportunities to see the reformed group remain rare: After its three sold-out dates at San Francisco's Warfield, the only shows so far confirmed are Coachella and a pair of July appearances in Brooklyn. When Patton and keyboardist Roddy Bottum expressed their enthusiasm for opening acts Pop-o-Pies and Trannyshack's metal/goth/industrial drag spectacle, the audience responded lukewarmly, and a show of hands revealed that many of the fans gathered that night were from out of town. "We're trying to do a hometown show for a crowd of fucking tourists," Patton spat out with a theatrical disgust that began when "Epic" was met with polite applause.
He rallied the crowd through "Just a Man" with hip-hop hand-waving exercises, and conducted the band with crotch-grabbing jerks and backhanded finger flickering that suggested one of Bugs Bunny's classic routines. Faith No More's members may now all be middle-aged, but they still keep their tunes loony.
"From Out of Nowhere"
"Land of Sunshine"
"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
"Last Cup of Sorrow"
"Cuckoo for Caca"
"Ashes to Ashes"
"Surprise! You're Dead"
"King for a Day"
"Just a Man"
"Chariots of Fire"
"Digging the Grave"
"This Guy's in Love with You"
"We Care a Lot"