Having seen Fu Manchu once before around three years ago, in the same venue, I had high hopes for this Wednesday night performance at the Islington Academy. My hopes were not misplaced as this was a righteous celebration of all things to do with muscle cars and sci-fi. The Academy is one of my preferred London venues- they always put on good acts and the sound is mostly decent. Early weekend stage times can be a problem, but there were no such issues on this occasion. In the past few years I have seen Sepultura, Obituary, Overkill and Ginger Baker in the venue and this show was right up there with anyone else I have watched there.
Support band Bloodnstuff were a two piece that left no lasting impression on me. Not my thing, so there we are. Fu Manchu took the stage at 9pm and blasted off through a career greatest hits. Naturally, there was a smattering of new tracks from this year’s “Gigantoid” which slotted in perfectly with older material. The crowd were given ‘Invaders On My Back’, ‘Dimension Shifter’ and ‘Anxiety Reducer’ from the new one and it sounded great. Scott Reeder, in particular, played a blinder- fantastic drummer with a good feel and exciting work around the kit. Frontman Scott Hill gave his all as well- his frenetic stage moves at odds with his laid back vocal style.
There was a good deal of older material for those wanting a trip down memory lane- ‘Regal Begal’ and ‘The Falcon Has Landed’ from “In Search Of” made welcome appearances, as did a superb version of ‘Hell On Wheels’. The highlight, for me, was ‘Boogie Van’ from the ‘King of The Road’ album- the groove was massive and the performance fully committed. The band still rock the surfer/slacker look with aplomb and the vibe remains very Californian. Fu Manchu are unique in this respect- often bracketed in with desert and stoner rock, the band is not either really. Yes, they are often laid back, but they also have a hardcore sensibility to them and can really put the pedal to the metal when they want to.
Thematically, their records seem to have shifted a little in recent years- sci-fi and abstract themes seem to have overtaken the “cars and girls” themes of twenty years ago. Fair enough, as “Signs of Infinite Power” and “Gigantoid” are fine records - without a mention of a Chevrolet in sight. As you may have gathered, I am a big Fu Manchu fan- I love all their stuff from “No One Rides For Free” through to “We Must Obey” and beyond. They have a uniquely fuzzy sound and manage to be very heavy and trippy without necessarily being metal or stoner. They have the sound and the songs- even if some bemoan the lack of lyrical depth in some of their material. No such complaints were to be heard at The Academy, though, as the band played tight and powerful versions of some of their best material. Annoyingly, I had to leave at the one hour mark, just as ‘Evil Eye’ was finishing. Thus, I don’t know what else they played after. Speculatively, I hope it wasn’t ‘Superbird’, ‘Asphalt Rising’ or ‘So Far Behind’- songs I would love to have heard. I got to hear ‘Laserblast’, though, so I cannot complain too hard.
Fu Manchu, then, still putting out quality records after twenty years and still putting on a fine live show. A professional band made up of real musicians. If you get the chance to see them, do so- you will not be disappointed.
Words by: Richard Maw