Funeral For A Friend at Manchester Academy 2

Funeral For A Friend. They've been the emo equivalent of the Sugababes with their constantly changing line-up over the years. They've had albums bellyflop their way out of favour with fans and critics alike, and they've worked with more labels than Kate Moss. But we are absolutely ecstatic to announce that judging by their current live form, they are back on a par with the good ole' days. It may not be a surprise that the comparatively disastrous 'Memory and Humanity' record was entirely omitted from the set list, a slip of the mind that a lot of the hardcore fans would have been most pleased about. Instead, the set consisted of a very fine showcasing of the cracking new album, 'Welcome Home Armageddon ' as well as many a favourite from 'Hours' and of course, 'Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation'. In a word, hooray.

The crowd that turned out were very much pumped for this gig, making for an atmosphere pregnant with anticipation... perhaps nerves... as the desperate desire for the return to the 'FFAF' sound had been somewhat overlooked in previous releases. The tension was swiftly smashed to pieces as soon as the comforting familiarity of the opening riff of 'Roses For The Dead' filled the room. By the time it had reached the chorus the entire pit was a forest of arms being held aloft surrendering to the sound which justifies the loyalty from such well-weathered fans. The pungent cloud of B.O. that followed could have been bottled and sold in apothecaries as 'The Musk of Rock n' Roll'. A few songs later and the unmistakable subtlety of 'Juneau's intro nearly led to the en masse climax of the few hundred people stood in the venue that night. Quite a superpower FFAF are wielding there... and one we can only pray they use wisely.

On stage, FFAF remain as energetic and involving as always. They seem to have avoided suffering from visible cracks with all the member-changing that's occurred and can quite effectively flatten audiences with their collective sonic booming. Matt Davies-Kreye has never disappointed in a live show - those vocals are just as strong and definitive on stage as they are on record. He also is a master of interacting with the audience. The banter -including the suggestion of a circle pit conga line for 'The End Of Nothing'- was made even more deserving of a smile thanks to his accent. It's lovely to see a Welsh band that don't feel the need to pretend to be American. Hope Ian Watkins gets that memo. We do have to give a mention to the 'mad skillz' of lead guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts. That beardy maestro has truly astounding talent and watching his fingers dancing across the fretwork at hyper-speed is enough to inspire a mighty swoon of admiration. Give him a solo as per 'Spinning Over The Island' and he is King on that stage.

Best songs of the night? 'Front Row Seats To The End Of The World' was one, undoubtedly. Even from the back of the room you felt pummelled by the weight of that incredibly solid performance. Other highlights from the new album included a very warmly received 'Sixteen' and the riff-heavy belter 'Aftertaste'. It really was a return to the FFAF we know and love and the set closing on firm fan favourite 'Escape Artists Never Die' really cementing this fact. Welcome back guys. We've missed you.