Face Of A Stranger Live @ Slade Rooms – 8th November 2013


Its 8.30pm, the 2nd support act Theia have just finished their set and the number of empty plastic glasses at my feet indicate that the bar is doing a roaring trade. The atmosphere is building, granted its beer assisted, but it’s definitely growing. No pressure boys…

The last support band has just finished and the crowd is live. So far we’ve had band members in with the audience and a few people head-banging in chicken masks. Like I said, the crowd is live. It had already been a night of many questions. Would we get lost on the way to the gig? Would we be able to work out how to get the pay and display machine in the car park to work? But now there was only one question left to be answered, could Face Of A Stranger make the step up from support act to headliner? All the ingredients are there but who knows. One thing is for certain, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

I had heard in the build-up to the gig that the band had been working on something special for the big night but I had been kept in the dark as to what this surprise was, and I really wasn’t expecting what I heard. The band took the stage and opened with a rock version of ‘Monster’ by Eminem and Rihanna, like I said, me and the rest of the crowd didn’t see that coming. After a couple of quick choruses the band fired straight into ‘Dysphasia.’ This is one of the tracks that appear on the band’s eponymously titled debut EP and it has been a staple of their live shows for a while now, but it still carries the same hard hitting hard rock impact that it always did. At this point I took a minute to glance round the room to see what the audience were making of it, and not only was the room full for the first time one the night everyone was along with the band for the ride.

There was barely time to draw breath as the opening chords of ‘Swallowing Grenades’ burst into life; this was rock music in its purist most raw form. Big, brash and most importantly loud. The aforementioned head-banging chickens were in their element and loving it. High praise indeed.
Next up was a typically jolting performance of ‘Violet.’ The thing with this track is that the first 30 seconds to minute just lulls you into a false sense of security. The vocal is slow, delicate and haunting as it glides over the light instrumental track. It’s a rare moment of serenity amongst a night of chaos. It’s soft and tranquil; for all intents and purposes it’s a ballad. Except it isn’t at all. The main riff kicks in and hits you like a sledge hammer to head, where did the slow thoughtful melody go?! It’s a shock to your senses and catches you by surprise but it definitely works.

The next song was one I was looking forward to hearing live having had it on repeat since I reviewed it the other day. I am of course talking about the band’s debut single ‘Shutting Me Down.’ And I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed, it was absolutely on the money, with singer Mitch Jones visibly lifted by hearing the members of the audience singing along with him. There was then a short break in proceedings as the band tuned up giving drummer Luke Watton the chance to show off his skills. What followed was a near 2 minute (totally improvised) drumming clinic. The roar of appreciation from the crowd said it all. What followed was the 2nd surprise of the night as we were treated to some new material, a new track called ‘Broken Words’ which had never before been performed in public. I think the best word to describe it would be ‘heavy.’ The rest of their repertoire is hardly Mumford and Sons but this was another level. It was uncompromising as it hammered through riff after riff and phase after phase, at its end I felt battered, I needed a lie down.  

After a short interlude/impromptu jam session while the band organised the giving out of their CD I got my lie down in musical form by way of the final track from their EP, a track called ‘The Road.’ As much as the rhythm guitar of Josh Pagett and bass of Ben Slater drove the previous track, ‘The Road’ really brings Joe Lewis and his Slash esque tones to the fore. The solo delivered here was as good as anything you will hear from some ‘name’ guitarists, and as the song softly plays towards its end the crowd for the first and only time all night the crowd were silent, what an impact. The final track of the night came in the form of now traditional show closer ‘In My Veins.’ By now the band didn’t look like they wanted the show to end as they gave it everything they had, complete with a full on rock finish as set of the drummer’s drum stick went flying past my head into the crowd. What a night.

This gig marked the move from small cramped room to real music venue and the journey from support act to headliner, but I have a feeling that the Face Of A Stranger journey is far from over, in fact I think that it’s just beginning.  


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