Faith No More/ Le Butcherettes - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Faith No More / Le Butcherettes

Live in Philadelphia (2015)

live show

Mid-way through their set in Philadelphia on May 15, 2015, Faith No More pulled out a surprise cover of the Commodores’ “Easy.” More than anything else that night, it underscored the kind of high-intellect hi-jinx that serves as their bread and butter. Of course, the show was their last show of their first tour in over a dozen years, and frontman Mike Patton made sure to point out “we made an album because we decided to go on tour, we didn’t go on tour because we made an album.”

But, even though this was “comeback” tour, the band didn’t go for the usual “greatest hits” set, as was noted by them bringing "Easy" back out from retirement, it having previously appeared on Angel Dust. When they suddenly launched into Lionel Richie’s smooth croon tune, the played it straight. For one thing, they juggled the funkiness and velvetiness as well as the Commodores themselves, showing that like the 70’s funk heroes, Faith No More are a band that plays from the soul, not the fingers. Second, it showed that the band isn’t interested in boundaries, be they genre, race, or otherwise. Why can’t a posse of five white guys from San Francisco do a legit version of a soul classic? Third, it showed the incredible range of frontman Mike Patton. His voice has been praised more times than the sun, but it’s worth doing again.

Patton spent most of the night just screaming his lungs out, but on the Commodores cover, he gave Richie a run for his money with a delicate, gentle, cooing performance. If anything, it seems as though Patton has five or six voice boxes in that system that he can alternate at will. The fact that this guy still has both his scream and croon and in mint condition after 26 years just goes to show that he must be a savant.

Likewise, the band played it heavy on their upcoming album Sol Invictus and it’s good they did. The new songs are much more atmospheric and brooding than the older punk-funk-metal stompers and the new slow burn serves them well. They opened with “Motherfucker,” which is a single, sinister, operatic crescendo. It’s tempting to call the tune a darker version of “We will rock you,” but as the band took to the stage, all decked out in marching white ensembles and surrounded by flowers draped across the stage, the band, suave as they were, seemed to have a sort of vicious Roxy Music vibe going. There is frightfully biting commentary here, but the band cuts deeper with a controlled, tactical delivery than just jumping around for the sake of jumping around. The fact is, the new tunes work perfectly for the band at this stage in their career. They’re neither abandoning their past nor are they just trying to copy what they did twenty years ago. Faith No More 2015 is a colder, steelier band than before and I’m glad they are.

Keyboardist and founding member Roddy Bottum served as an excellent foil to Patton. Often interjecting his own commentary between songs, such as a brief recounting of the prom going on at the band’s hotel, Bottum acted as sort of a nexus between the band and the audience. Despite the ambiguous nature of many of the band’s songs, Bottum well placed yuks served as reminders that this kind of music is for dissection, as rocking as it might be. But, even more importantly, Bottum’s keyboard served as the backbone for most of the new songs, playing a heavy hand in their new-ish dark, creepy, brooding tones. “Maturing” doesn’t always mean getting “Softer” and Bottum underscored that with style.

Circling back to the band’s left field Commodores cover, they closed the show with their most famed cover, an unflinching version of the Bee Gees “I started a joke.” Once again, the band’s range was on display and one wonders if the cover was just a cover, or something more. Who would have expected a band like Faith No More, who blend funk with metal with rap with punk with soul, to ever make it out of the garage, never-the-less onto some of the world’s biggest stages. Patton did seem to linger on the refrain, “I started a joke, which started the who world crying, but I didn’t see that the joke was on me.” Granted, Patton joined the band some seven or eight years into their career, but the principal seemed to overarch the whole group. Though, it must be mentioned that after the song’s delicate, fading closing note, Patton immediately made a fart noise before leaving the stage.

Before Faith No More, Le Butcherettes played an opening set that gave the headliners a run for their money. Seriously, they killed. Forecasting Faith No More’s Creepy-Dinner-Party vibe, the trio took the stage in bright red, dresses and suits. Frontwoman Teresa Suarez was decked out in a crimson cocktail dress and, hell, I’m just gonna say what everybody there was thinking: VA-VA-VOOM.

But, it seems that her getup was either a ploy, or, a redirection. The fact is, Le Butcherettes’ music is vicious. Throughout the night, the band played tunes that drew from the nastier sides of 70’s hard rock, 80’s noise rock, and just avant-garde weirdness. It really was quite a site to see this well dressed trio just tear out these nasty, barking songs.

But, therein lies the cleverness of this band. While they did play tunes that would raise the hair on your arms- guitars grinding against a gothic keyboard as driven by driving drums- they were just as equally likely to play it light. Suarez would switch between sounding like a demon and a songbird within a notes width. Meanwhile, she would act out the songs as much as play them, at parts, striking Freddie Mercury like matador poses, and at others, rocking back on straightened legs, doddering around the stage, like some sort of warped, life-sized, mechanical-doll gone crazed.

Then, during an extended interlude, Suarez jumped directly into the 3,000 person crowd and crawled on her hands an knees along the entire length of the floor, and back. It’s telling that even the biggest, baddest dude in the place got out of her way. She then climbed back on stage and just howled her head off.

In many ways, there’s a comparison to early and classic era Alice Cooper. Suarez and the band take conventions, and bend around them, at once paying homage to classic troupes and perverting them. Likewise, the music is built for a live setting. there are winding songs that flip between atmospheric, funeral home-type dirges and straight-up hard driving punk numbers.

The Philadelphia crowd was wowed, and let me tell you, that’s all you need to know. If you can win over the notoriously surly Philly audience, you can win over the Taliban. Get this band on a plane to the Middle East. World peace might be just a few days away.