FM/Romeo's Daughter/Deborah Bonham
London Shepherd's Bush Empire
10th March 2012

Time, apparently, flies. Whoosh, there goes your life, mate, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Nothing seems to ram this hone quite as much as bands playing anniversary shows for old but beloved albums, especially when you see punters who weren’t even born when said album was released, even though you bought it with money that would otherwise
have gone on alcohol. On record. For our younger readers, records were things made to be broken, or at least warped into amusing shapes when left on a turntable by a window on a hot day.

But I digress, as usual. Twenty five years ago a band called FM released their first album, a pop rock classic called “Indiscreet”. I did indeed buy it on release day, having been a fan of the band since seeing them support Gary Moore the year before and loving the wimpy melodies that they shared. Fast forward to 2012, and the band are playing three shows to celebrate the anniversary, as you do, and I’m pleased to be attending the final one at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, as venerable an old venue as you’re likely to get, with three balconies to choose from, depending on your tolerance for heights. As I’m armed with a small camera and an official sticker I get to camp out at the front of what seems to be a sold out gig, and the nostalgia is almost solid.

First up is mistress of the blues Deborah Bonham (wasn’t she once a Debbie?), who is strangled a bit by time constraints and as a result only gets four songs in. Although she’s been a round for a good old while, this is actually my first taste of the younger Bonham sibling, and to be honest I’m rather impressed. This is blues for blues fans, and Bonham has a voice that conveys every bit of emotion that the genre demands. If this was a Wayne’s World movie, I would opine that she “wails”, which is a Good Thing. Best track is one she introduces as a new one, “I Need Love”, during which the crowd is captivated and the paint in danger of being stripped off the walls. I may be late to this particular party, but Deborah Bonham seems like she’s a good hostess.

Next up are old sparring partners of FM, Romeo’s Daughter, a band who only put out two albums before calling it a day in the early 90’s. Like so many these days, they’re back for another shot, delivering the goods with their new album “Rapture”. In a confident move, they open with a new track “Trippin’ Out”, perhaps the rockiest and best track off the new disc, and it goes down a storm. Vocalist Leigh Mattey looks confident and happy, swishing about the stage like your sexy Auntie at a wedding disco, delivering every note as well as she did twenty years ago. The new tracks fit in well, and they add “Lightning”, “Bittersweet” and the up-tempo “Keep Walking” to the set of eight tracks, pushing the new album for all it’s worth. The highlight for me is my favourite of their tracks “Addicted To the Animal” from the second album, but it’s also a pleasure to hear “Wild Child”, a great track that Heart borrowed but never came close to bettering the original version. Confident, clear and cool, Romeo’s Daughter made a very welcome return and I hope they can stay a while.

From reports of the other two shows, it isn’t likely that FM are going to be rubbish. In fact, after seeing them twenty or thirty times over the years I’d lay money on it, because if ever there was a tight band this is it. As promised, they play the “Indiscreet” album straight through (although apparently in the U.S running order as it suits the set better). It’s a mad forty five minutes or so of time travel, and so, so cool to hear these great tracks from the stage once more. Keeping in line with tradition, the audience gets to sing the intro to “Face To Face”, although the tradition of listing “Frozen Heart” as “Frozen Tart” on the setlist seems to have been dropped these days. Needless to say, the boys do a stand up job, with Steve Overland singing like the vocal master he is, and “new kid” Jim Kirkpatrick not only doing his job on lead guitar but also adding a few things to some songs that end up as improvements not just padding. He and keyboard player Jem Davis get to do an allnew intro to “Love Lies Burning” for example, whilst Kirkpatrick also finishes the song off with a nifty new solo.

After “Heart Of The Matter” finishes, the band walk off , leaving resident smiley man and sex symbol (it sez here) Pete Jupp to inform us that that’s our lot because they’ve played the album. Of course, no one is fooled and the band proceed to barrel through some more of their 80’s highlights, including the best hit single that never was, “Bad Luck”, and their keyboard-tastic single “Let Love Be The Leader”, complete with enthusiastic “Whoah whoah” ing from the crowd. Jem Davis almost makes me cry with joy as he brings out a keytar during “Face To Face”, an instrument that needs a resurgence, and it starts here! Although original keyboard player Didge Digital made an appearance at Manchester, there are no special gusts tonight, but none are needed. They finish with an encore that took many a mind back to the good old days, Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs”, a track that FM have always owned completely, with Steve Overland revisiting his old mid song singalong that only the hardiest of punters can match up to. And then, all to soon, it’s over. FM may be the nearly men of AOR, the little band that did everything right but never quite hit the big time, but tonight they showed once again that they were and are one of the best in the business. Now about that “Tough It Out” anniversary tour in 2014....”

Review and photos by Alan Holloway

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