"A loud bang followed by silence"- Face Value live at The Diamond, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Saturday 1st July 2006. Review by Stuart Barnes.
This seems to be an issue fulls of firsts for me. First Ray Wilson gig, first Ray Wilson interview and now my first experience of a Face Vaule gig. Sutton-in-Ashfield is a small town not too far from Nottingham (although Nottingham is still a good two and half hours drive from my house in leafy Surrey!). The Diamond is a noted music venue with a history of hosting tribute bands. My mission for this gig was to firstly review it and secondly to interview the band, hot after their experience at the UK Convention.
I arrived at the venue as the band were almost ready to soundcheck. A large projection screen was hung from the ceiling above the centre of the stage and was showing the final few minutes of the football ('nuff said about that!). Lead singer John Wilkinson came over and said 'Hi' and introduced me to the rest of the band. One thing that I hadn't considered was the sheer amount of equipment the band had. There were rack cases, mixers, two drumkits a whole array of lights everywhere. Not to mention 6 keyboards; apparently this was the small setup, as there wasn't enough room in the venue for the Prophet 10 and the Synclavier!
After the instruments were set up, it was the turn of the lights. Fave Value bring a lot of lights with them. All the band get involved in rigging the lights. Lighting scenes were tested and so were the Par cans at the front of the stage. On discovering that the white spotlights at the front weren't working, John stepped forward to examine them. I don't know if it was the pressure of running late or whatever, but John failed to follow basic safety sense and he opened up one of the lights to check it. This was shortly followed by a loud bang and a shower of sparks coming from John's general direction. Maybe that was why the light wasn't working. Will, the guitarist then pointed out to John that the lights need to be unplugged before they can be examined! Whilst not hurt, John was a bit shaken. He got the light working, though!
On to the soundcheck. They only played one song, No Son Of Mine, which was to be their opening number. Never having seen the band before, I tried to keep an open mind about what I was going to hear. I will admit that I had my doubts, as without a bass player, how can they sound any good? Once the song started my doubts were thrown aside, as they proceeded to give as accurate a rendition of the song as could be done; complete with elephant sample! No lights though. I guess they were saving that until later. Due to the late running of the football, the band were running late as well. The soundcheck finished with less than half an hour to go before curtain up. It was at this point that the only way I can describe what happened next is by using a metaphoric example. Imagine each band member is a ping ping ball. Image you are holding all the ping pong balls in one hand and that you drop them to the floor. They scatter in all directions, don't they? Well, that's what happened to the band. John came up to me with Wrex, the drummer, and said that as he couldn't find the other two, I could interview them. Wrex then disappeared in order to look for the other two, leaving John on his own. Given that there was only 15 minutes until curtain up and given everything else that had happened to John with the lights that evening, I suggested that we leave the interview for later and that he should concentrate on preparing for the show. John thanked me and told me that the band will be having some food during the interval and that I could interview them all then. He then went off to get ready.
Fifteen minutes later it was showtime. The band came on to the stage and the lights went down. The familiar tick-tock of the No Son Of Mine intro started and the band went on to perform the song even better than they did in the soundcheck. John's voice sounds uncannily like Phil Collins' and he makes good use of it during the songs. Now the venue was dark and a little bit of smoke had been pumped onto the stage, the light show came into it's own. It's unusual for a band playing the smaller clubs to have their own lighting rig, as most venues tend to have their own systems, as this venue did. However, by running their own system, they are able to create visial atmospheres to complement the aural ones. This sets them out on their own if a visual comparison with other bands is to be drawn.
More songs followed. Land Of Confusion, Another Day In Paradise, Mama, Invisible Touch, Turn It On Again, You Can't Hurry Love, Two Hearts, Sussudio, Throwing It All Away, Jesus He Knows Me, That's All, I Know What I Like, Something Happened On The Way To Heaven, Groovy Kind Of Love, and so on. Each one was a treat to listen to, as it was done properly. The PC songs had brass in the right places and the Genesis songs used all the right sounds. The voice sound in Mama is especially haunting, being a sample of the Synclavier that Tony, the keyboard player owns. Soundwise, Tony Cole has all the right sounds and he uses them in all the right places. The ARP Quadra has a unique sound and for things like the solo in Follow You, Follow Me there is no substitute. I look forward to seeing the full setup at a future gig.
Will Smith on guitars performed admirably and was able to conjur up a varied palette of sounds from his setup. He certainly nailed the Rutherford/Steurmer sounds and playing styles for the songs. The intro to Follow You, Follow Me sounded exactly like the record.I've never seen a tribute band guitarist look so relaxed when playing solos. Most of them seem to grit their teeth as they try to stay faithful to the record. Will seemed to play his parts with ease. The solo in Easy Lover was as good as can be got, short of actually being Daryl Steurmer.
Wrexham Thompson deserves a mention as well. Not only does he have a superb range of drums sounds at his disposal, he spends the entire gig playing along to a click track without dropping a beat. This is an art in itself, and one that eludes many drummers.
Last, but not least there's John, the voice of the band. He has great stage prescence and the voice to go with it. The between song chat is familiar yet different; he has taken some of the better known intros to songs and changed them slightly (for the better, imo). There's even an 'audience participation time', but it was before Land Of Confusion, not Home By The Sea. All that's missing is the London accent!
There was only one slight incident in the show. The band were playing In The Air Tonight (quite well too), and were just about to get to the climactic drum break at the end when the power to the stage cut out. This didn't phase them and as soon as the power was restored, they started the song again and made it all the way to the end without incident. It was shortly afterwards that it was revealed that the blackout was casued by a member of the public tripping on a cable at the behind the stage.
Face Value aren't just about the music. They put on a show. The lights give an extra dimension to the show and complement the sound perfectly. The tribute bands that cover the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis tend to play the songs as studies in musical technique; heads down and try to play it exactly. Face Value don't appear to be bothered by this, as the material they play is more pop than prog, which leaves the band more room to get on and enjoy the performance, which comes across to the audience clearly. That's not saying that the songs they play are easier, just different. The audience is another thing that's different. At the other early '70's tribute bands I've seen, there are usually a lot of long haired blokes with battered leather jackets and pint of bitter in their hands standing in not so silent (and usually very out of tune) contemplation of the music they are hearing. There were significantly more women (and some not bad looking ones either!) at this Face Value gig. Some even knew the Genesis stuff! By the end of the night everyone was on the dancefloor bopping along to the band. You won't get that happening to Supper's Ready!
Seriously, I am not going to say that Face Vaule are better or worse than any other tribute band, because that wouldn't be fair. The material they play is very different to the other bands. They do appeared to have carved a niche for themselves and for the moment they have cornered their particular market. No one else comes close at playing the songs they do.
I never got around to getting the interview, as there were issues to be resolved with the venue's management regarding the food (the missing hamburger and chips and the cheeseburger with invisible cheese!), and afterwards there was the packing up to be done (but not before Tony let me have a go on his keyboards). Never mind guys, I'll catch up with you in Birmingham in October, if I don't see you sooner.
Thanks to John, Wrex, Will and Tony for making me feel so welcome. Now, how about a tour of the South?