Concert Review

Failure Played Its Best Album and Showed It's One of The Most Underrated Bands of the '90s

Failure celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Fantastic Planet by playing the influential record from front to back Saturday night at Livewire in Scottsdale.

Typically, when a band plays a record in its entirety, it can be a mixed bag, since the surprise element that is so important in a concert experience goes out the window. This simply just wasn't the case Saturday night, as they had fans mesmerized from opener "Saturday Saviour," and they slowly built momentum as the record continued to take shape. That's the thing about Fantastic Planet — it's a bit of a slow start and it really shows its '90s colors early on, but starts exposing its genius as the journey continues.

Throughout the night, singer Ken Andrews switched roles from guitarist to bassist with Greg Edwards as drummer Kellii Scott beat the piss out of his drum kit. One of Andrews' finest moments came during the screechy solo on "Dirty Blue Balloons," when he played with great conviction and you could hear the influence Failure has had on other alternative bands. Speaking of influencing others, there may not have been a band Failure influenced more than A Perfect Circle, which covered Fantastic Planet's "The Nurse Who Loved Me" on their second record, Thirteenth Step, which has made it a fan favorite and was a full-fledged singalong during the show. Livewire proved to be a great venue for the show, as the large in-house video screen behind the band provided spacey videos to compliment the vibe. Sonically, the room couldn't have been better; the sound was crystal clear. 
When Fantastic Planet was released, there was only one radio single, "Stuck On You" which never really resonated with the mainstream but become much-admired by musicians like pop-rockers Paramore, who have covered the track. When Failure played the song live, it sounded like something that could have been written today. The record's finest moment is the second-to-last track, "Heliotropic," and the song's shining soul is Edwards' dreamy shoegazer guitar lead, which is practically the record's climax. Failure's best attribute has always been their guitar leads. Those leads are like driving a car in the desert and reaching a fork in the road, except Failure never took the route you'd expect. The record's final track, "Daylight," was nothing short of beautiful.

They easily could have called it a night after taking fans on an adventure, but they had unfinished business to take care of. While nostalgia was definitely in the air, they returned to the stage to perform the best song from last year's The Heart Is a Monster, "Mulholland Dr.," which sounds like it may be the outcome if the Beatles procreated with Pink Floyd. If you weren't feeling melancholy by that point, you were when Greg Edwards dedicated the night's final track, "Screen Man," to Pamela Peace, the recently deceased mother of his girlfriend Carina Round from Puscifer. Edwards said, "This is a song from our first record; it's dedicated to Pamela Peace. When she was in her body, she loved to dance to this song."

Failure may be the most underrated of the '90s, and Fantastic Planet will always remain a cult classic. But at the end of the day, being a fan of the band makes you feel like you're a part of one of the best well-kept secrets in rock music.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I saw shows on the original Fantastic Planet tour and was a big fan of Troy Van Leeuwin's contributions. Some of these shows included the band playing for about 50 people. I've seen them at least eight times in the past 20 years.

Overheard: "They sound like Nirvana and Pink Floyd mixed together."

The Crowd: Wide age range, everything from 40 somethings, younger musicians, to parents bringing their kids.
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Jim Louvau
Contact: Jim Louvau