Islington Assembly Hall played host to the home-grown maestros of melodic rock as FM hit the road to promote their thirteenth studio album. It’s easy to remember that it is their thirteenth album as it’s handily titled Thirteen and luckily continues the high-quality output we’ve come to expect.
FM – Grand Slam
Islington Assembly Hall, London
Thursday 7 April 2022
Words: Liz Medhurst
Photography: Steve Ritchie
First, though, we were treated to a fine pulsating set by Grand Slam, getting us right in the mood. Formed as a result of Phil Lynott pursuing solo ventures from the ashes of Thin Lizzy in 1983, the project folded under two years later, leaving only a collection of well-received live dates and a few studio cuts here and there.
After a nearly 35-year hiatus, the band was put back together by original members Mark Stanway and Laurence Archer and finally recorded their full debut album Hit The Ground, released toward the end of 2019. Does this make them the oldest new band or the other way round?
Anyway, most here tonight were aware of the history and the fine clutch of songs produced to date, enthusiastically joining in with a strong voice. Archer, the only remaining original member, was the lynchpin of the stage, seasoning the set with speedy and always fluid solos, the familiar twanging tone of the guitar ringing out.
Their genesis happened around the same time as tonight’s headliners, and there’s only one degree of separation tonight as FM’s Jem Davis provided keyboards. Frontman Mike Dyer absolutely has the pipes and the tone required, and this accomplished set is really satisfying. From the blazing Nineteen to the intense groove of centrepiece Crime Rate through to the rousing finale of Sisters Of Mercy, we were left with the fervent hope that it won’t be another three decades until the next album.
FM had a lot of friends in the room tonight, and as the lights dimmed, the band entered one by one to huge cheers. With good reason, too, this is a band that knows what they are doing and appears incapable of a bad gig. Tonight’s was an absolute delight.
The nineteen-track setlist encompassed no less than ten of the albums, so was super-representative of the band. It’s striking that there is no jarringly obvious distinction between the periods, the constant thread holding things together is flawless songs and impeccable musicianship.
We were here for the promotion of the new album, and the strongest tracks made an appearance with Waiting On Love, the huge ballad Load Road Gone coming to life, and a welcome appearance of Turn This Car Around, showing that all this way in the band can still produce a banger.
The set was flying by the time Crosstown Train thundered across the hall, the band and audience had hit their stride, and the energy stayed high. Steve Overland’s vocals were as strong as ever, Jim Kirkpatrick’s versatile guitar playing added smooth lyrical accents, and the powerful engine room of Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp ensured that the hard and heavy foundations gave just the right amount of edge.
Killed By Love and Frozen Heart saw voices raised to the rafters, and frankly, the triple whammy of This Girl, Tough It Out, and I Belong To The Night is as fine a slice of the genre you will find anywhere. It’s a total immersion experience. The sound easily belongs in an arena.
This is timeless rock, evocative of movies and good times, and has the rare ability to transport you far away from a hall in North London. It’s all just so good, the ease and flow of it all. You just float away on a little slice of happiness every time.
For the beginning of the encore, Overland and Davis performed a stunning keyboard and voice version of Story Of My Life, showcasing their immense talent. It sounded so massive that you can’t describe it as stripped back or acoustic.
By the time the whole band had completed the set with Other Side Of Midnight (complete with that most wondrous of inventions, the keytar), we had been satiated and entertained with damn good rock music, as classy as it comes.