I don't write about music a lot on this blog. I’m just not capable of turning out some critically brilliant and in-depth review – it’s all personal here – but I’m feeling the need to write, and somehow capture a snapshot of my feelings on Friday night.
Let’s begin with a little backstory, then. When I was blindsided by my cancer diagnosis in 2005, it threw me off course entirely. I couldn't speak about my feelings because I wasn't entirely sure what I was feeling, so I shut myself down and got on with fighting the illness. Although I was chipper enough on the outside, my head was a mess; needless to say, I was not a sociable patient. When nurses came in to check on me during chemotherapy, it was common for me to ignore them entirely, headphones on, volume up high, lost in albums. One of those albums was Hours, by Funeral for a Friend. I'd play it on repeat, as high as I could allow, over and over, until the drips were removed and I could go home.
Although a decade has now passed and I have changed in immeasurable ways, there are so few albums in my music library that resonate within my soul and that have remained a constant favourite over the years. So when I heard the band were calling it a day, that they were playing one last tour, that they would play Hours in full - it felt like the fates had conspired for me somehow.
I was emotional weeks before the show; and walking into the Forum in Kentish Town I felt such a rush of nostalgia, quickly buried under excitement. I was grinning from ear to ear as we took our seats (yes, seats – how things have changed now I’m approaching my thirties, no mosh pit for me anymore!) and my heart nigh on burst when Funeral took to the stage.
And for the first few songs I was golden, roaring my heart out with great gusto- then they played History and I was lost.
History is my song. I don't know how else to describe it. It's linked to a time of such turmoil, when I was alone, and terrified, and in need of an anchor; then along came a song that spoke of solidarity, that lifted me out of the hole I'd fallen into, that reminded me that no matter how bad things got, I was not alone. I remember clearly the day I stopped thinking of the people who'd lost themselves to the illness and instead looked to those who had survived, and chose them as my allies. The song encapsulates everything I felt during my illness and after – feelings that had been buried for a decade - and I stood there and sobbed, unable to sing along, while all around me a sea of hands were raised in salute.
It was such an exhilarating gig: it’s one thing for the band playing to be on top form, but it really elevates the atmosphere when the crowd performs too. Every single person there danced and sang, it was a cacophony of emotions and I most certainly was not the only person with tears streaming down my face.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this was the best show of my life. From the moment they struck the first chord of All The Rage I was transported back ten years - I still knew all the words. I bounced and danced and laughed and sang, totally swept up in a joyful bubble of noise. Here it was, the soundtrack to my last decade – Monsters, for unsociable bus rides to school; The End of Nothing, for furious, stomping, door-slamming moods; Sonny, for bleary-eyed commutes; Escape Artists Never Die, for scribbling down creative writing assignments; I Am The Arsonist, for studying endless notes; Into Oblivion, for driving over the border to home, the final moments of a long and weary journey. So many memories. And although Funeral’s time as a band may have come to an end, I am confident their music will carry me into the next decade and beyond.
Thank you, Funeral for a Friend, from that lost girl on the cancer ward; and thank you, from the woman she grew into.