In the throes of a guitar solo, Failure guitarist Ken Andrews smacks his fist against his guitar, raises it over his head and shoves its neck into the Sunn Model 15 FRFR speaker behind him. He turns to face the audience, "Sergeant Politeness, caress my ego!"
Like it or not, Failure's back -- and not in the sad, reunion-tour way that some bands (Blink-182, A Tribe Called Quest, for instance) return to the stage -- they're back like they never left.
The trio from L.A. is touring for the first time in 16 years and sold out its first show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles in February. The Marquee Theatre crowd on Friday night had plenty of elbow room to go around, but the people who were there had the right intentions.
Failure is the only band billed on its Tree of Stars North American tour. In lieu of an opening act, Failure played a short "film."
The opening act was 10-ish minutes of movie clips abstractly related to Failure songs -- for instance, the parallels between "The Nurse Who Loved Me" and opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, or an episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show and the Failure song "Wet Gravity," and Stanley Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Failure's "Another Space Song."
When New Times spoke with guitarist Greg Edwards prior to the show, he said age had made him a more cautious musician. If that's true, it wasn't evident. In fact, he was incredibly fun to watch -- one of those musicians who let's music take over self-awareness. There were times in "Small Crimes," "Wet Gravity" and "Heliotropic" where Edwards appeared to be far and away in the songs' dimensions.
It was, simply, a really, really good rock show -- with an intermission, during which the plastic cups by their instruments were refilled with red wine.
The band still had chemistry with their songs and one another. There were a few moments when Andrews, Edwards and drummer Kellii Scott looked over while the other was jamming and would smile or, even better, feed off one another. For three guys, by the way, there's a lot of depth in their noise. Their songs are more dramatic, punchier when played live. There's still relevancy in the lyrics, the tones and the band. The crowd was especially into "Wet Gravity," which blew the entire venue open, and "Stuck On You" and the closer, "Heliotropic," during which had people were touching their chests because the bass burrowed inside them. Overall, the set list favored Fantastic Planet and Magnified, but two songs from the Steve Albini-produced debut, Comfort, made it into the encore.
Click to the next page for a set list and the Critic's Notebook.
Opening movie sequence: "The Mirror" "The Spy Who Loved Me" "Solyaris" "The Ren & Stimpy Show" "2001: A Space Odyssey" "Fantastic Planet"
Set List "Another Space Song" "Frogs" "Wet Gravity" "Saturday Savior" "Sergeant Politeness" "Segue 2" "Dirty Blue Balloons" "Undone" "Pillowhead" "Segue 3" "Nurse Who Loved Me"
"Blank" "Solaris" "Small Crimes" "Smoking Umbrellas" "Stuck on You" "Heliotropic"
Encore: "Screen Man" "Macaque" "Daylight"
Friday Night: Failure at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Random notebook dump: Don't be late to a Marquee show, because then you're forced to park at the venue and pay $7. That's $7 less to spend on those $75 lithographs at the merch table, guys!
The crowd: Failure, APC and Pop Up records shirts. A handful of people wearing earplugs. People who were old enough to have been into Failure the first go 'round and people who were born during that time, too.
Personal bias: I was 8 years old when the band broke up. I have an APC tattoo.
Overheard: "Well, that song is much better live." -- a girl to her date after "Small Crimes."
Honorable mentions: -A one-up conversation about who was a bigger Everclear fan before they were... "cool." -A lot of people were talking about where the band had been over the last 16 years. -A deep chat about whether "TBA" listed on a concert announcement was a genius band name or even a band name at all.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.