The show, one of the headlining acts of this year's Canadian Music Week, seemed only to be associated with the festival in name and not much else. There was no visible signage, and it didn't adhere to the time slot the band had been given. The packed house was getting visibly and audibly restless, but it turned to sheer elation when Roddy Bottum, Billy Gould, Mike Bordin, Mike Patton and Jon Hudson took their places.
The front of the stage, as well as the band's amps and risers, were lined with bouquets of flowers, leaving the Sony Centre looking a bit like a funeral home. That might seem morbid, but the aesthetic worked both as a throwback to their goth-y origins (see: Faith No Man) and reinforced much of their new album, Sol Invictus', tongue-in-cheek lyrical fixation on the band's resurrection ("Matador," "From The Dead").
Some of those new songs already have a history on the road, having crept their way out into the band's sets last summer. "Motherfucker" and "Superhero" were the first concrete evidence of Faith No More's newfound creativity, and as bookends to their set on Saturday night (May 9), had just as much venom in their bite as cuts from earlier albums like Angel Dust and King For A Day, Fool For a Lifetime.
The band gelled around songs both old and new, with each performer sounding in their prime. It was hard to not to devote most attention to the very animated Patton, whose vocal gymnastics kept the songs feeling unhinged, but Bordin came out ahead as the band's secret weapon behind the kit.
In a musical climate when reunions are now just an expectation, Faith No More's return speaks to their enduring relevance as musical scatterbrains, falling under the "alternative metal" category, but teasing out funk, R&B, and jazz in the process. The almost sinister "Midlife Crisis" was played note-for-note at first, but then gave way to a much looser, funkier version, only to segue into a take on Boz Scaggs' "Lowdown."
At the end of their set, Patton sounded bewildered, saying, "It's kinda weird you're still into us." But Faith No More's playful drive to fold genres and time in over themselves is what makes the band so engaging to watch, and is key to their ability to be subversive and relevant even 20 years later.