It has been exactly 47 hours since I stood five feet away from Failure as they played live music and the truth of the matter is that I still don’t believe it happened. The group has been number one on my list of bands I want to see reunite since I rescued Fantastic Planet from a discount bin at well-known Bay Area record store. That lone purchase I made on that afternoon in October 1998 would end up becoming my favorite album of all time.
You can imagine my shock last fall when the Facebook page for the band started to show signs of life. That shock then became squeals of delight when the first show since 1997 was set to take place in my adopted home town of Los Angeles. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but perhaps as some sort of karma kicking back my way for turning so many people onto the band I ended up with one ticket admitting me into the El Rey Theatre for an evening with Failure.
With no opening act, the celebration kicked off with a twenty minute video montage featuring various films and television shows. By the time such beloved classics as James Bond and Ren & Stimpy had given way to the film Fantastic Planet, I knew we were close. Sure enough before the movie screen had a chance to drop the opening notes of Another Space Song began to fill the sold out theatre. A song rich in distance, the slowly moving melodies truly allowed the proper mood for 900 people simultaneously experiencing goose bumps. A fantastic opener indeed.
For the next 90 minutes the band dazzled the crowd with a heavy dose of Fantastic Planet while sprinkling the set with enough material from their first two studio records. With illuminated platforms and microphone stands, time and modern technology have allowed the trio of Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards, and Kelli Scott to finally sound as mighty on stage as they did on LP’s back in the 1990’s. An early example of this was the bass Andrews laid down during Frogs. With low-end so rich and deep I was convinced the chandeliers above the crowd would come crashing down. Thankfully that was not the case.
Much like the Fantastic Planet album, the show slowly evolved into something greater and greater. Any slight cobwebs were all but knocked up by the time songs like Sergeant Politeness and Undone had come and gone. In fact the band sounded as if they had been on tour for 16 years and not on moth balls as the three sounded tight and nailed every musical transition with ease. It didn’t matter if they were rocking at full force on Pillowhead or taking things down into dark ravines with the likes of Segue 3 and Blank, Failure was in dialed in and confident as could be.
Since listening to a Live 105 Christmas concert on the radio back in 1996 doesn’t count as seeing the band live, I didn’t raise my hand when Andrews asked between songs if I had seen the band back in the day. I did however enjoy every last moment as all of my favorite Fantastic Planet tracks came to life right before my eyes. I giggled as Stuck On You got the biggest ovation; personally I was more excited for The Nurse Who Loved Me, Heliotropic and the natural pick for set closer, Daylight. As if it could be anything else, the swirling guitar solos that come from a slow build throughout the song washed over the El Rey proving that Failure are not simply back, they are a dominate force to be reckoned with.
I think the reason I don’t believe that I saw Failure is the fact that the band exceeded my unreachable expectations of what a live performance from them could or should be. The band delivered a flawless ninety minutes of music and looked visually stunning doing it. This wasn’t just any old concert, this was a dream come true that I still fear waking up from. I can now add to my tombstone that I saw Failure live, even if I still refuse to believe it.