Review by James Hendicott
In 2002, the world nearly said goodbye to Feeder. The suicide of enigmatic drummer Jon Lee saw the band put on hiatus; when they returned seven months later, a rapturous and sensationally bleary-eyed return saw the group storm Reading Festival’s second stage. That day, the crowd spilt out of every corner of the tent despite The Strokes superstar headline slot taking place just 500 metres away. That sweatbox comeback was one of the best performances this reviewer’s ever witnessed, and with hit singles Buck Rodgers and Seven Days In The Sun in their recent past, Feeder looked set to power on.
Even then, guitar music seemed to have reach an unmatchable peak, however, and to some extent, Feeder were set to depart the charts with it. Their tracks might still be recognizable, but ten years later Feeder have long fallen from most radio playlists, and find themselves treading water. It’s not that there’s anything wrong, particularly: new album ‘Generation Freakshow’ is arguably as good as anything they’ve released in a decade. With little change in style, though, there’s a hefty whiff of nostalgia to the band in general, and to tonight’s proceedings.
Despite being the ‘Generation Freakshow’ tour, there’s an impressive, career-spanning array of sounds on offer tonight, with pumping early hit ‘Insomnia’ and the simple emotion of ‘High’ marking the early career highlights. Front man Grant Nicholas’ voice has always been a major asset. He can be quite a static performer, but with bassist Taka pulling the moves whilst laying down a heady bassline alongside him, and a live keyboardist adding depth to the sound, Feeder’s stage show doesn’t lack for action.
Opener Pushing The Senses sets the tone, with Tumble and Fall and Just The Way I’m Feeling bracketing the only lengthy chain of forgettable new material in the set. Feeder’s best tracks are a gorgeous mix of rock-out moments and slow-building melody, and the hits have The Academy smashing sweaty, shirtless chests and throwing devil horns at the ceiling. Buck Rodgers sets the crowd in overdrive. Newbies Border and Idaho are greeted more indifferently, but most of the crowd look like they might remember the release of ‘Swim’, so their continuing to attract minor sing-a-longs is an achievement in itself.
It’s hard not to be taken in by a live set up that’s so clearly intended to add depth and energy to a show; one that goes beyond the simple reproductive requirements and instead seeks to improve on expectations, throwing in kooky intra-song outtakes and huge chorus depth. That’s what we’re given tonight: there’s little stage-crowd interaction, but actions speak loud enough, and the desire still seems to seep from the band’s sweaty pores.
A rapturous encore takes on a theme, with Grant soloing on the early verses of Children Of The Sun, before inviting the rest of the band back and giving way to a rock-out rendition of Sunrise. The theme isn’t lost on the audience, and the infectious opening bars of Seven Days In The Sun are already ringing around the venue while Grant and Taka try to disguise its intro with mellow static. The early-century single proves a fitting close: there’s been a lot of old and a little new, that thin line between ‘stale and lacking new material’ and ‘not playing enough hits’ successfully negotiated.
Despite peaking a decade ago and – just possibly – remaining best known for a lyrically ridiculous song about new cars and lemons, Feeder’s set is an appealing bout of euphoric nostalgia. That things are still so tight and seem so relevant is an achievement in itself.