Outrospective: Faithless

I had every intention, today, of bringing you my thoughts on one of the seminal albums in my life, Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants. However, last night, I happened to catch a Twitter update from one of my favourite bands, directing me to a statement on their behalf.  The statement announced the end of the band. That band is Faithless and I am gutted.

In truth, it’s perhaps not a massive surprise that the band have come to their end. I’m not sure what the sales figures were for their last album, The Dance, but I think they must have been subject to the law of diminishing returns since, or perhaps even before, 2004’s No Roots. Which I think is a magnificent album, by the way. In addition, the statement’s author; lyricist, rapper, philosopher and someone I’d really love to have a beer with, Maxi Jazz is now 53. Whilst age is no barrier to making music, perhaps it is to summoning up the energy to get through a high octane live show. Not to mention the physical effects of touring. Ironically, this is something I was talking about in my Depeche Mode post the other day. 

As a further clue that the end was nigh, the band’s upcoming Brixton shows are billed as “Passing The Baton”. At the time, Jo and I thought that perhaps plans were afoot to go on without Mr Jazz. But how could there be a Faithless without Mr Jazz? No, it seems the band has realised that, collectively, their time was up. Or to put it another away, Maxi’s way, “time to close the book and return to the library”. I won’t be at Brixton next month, Jo decided she didn’t want to go, the announcement of the dates so close to Christmas didn’t help either. Perhaps it’s for the best, fifteen years and 4 blinding live shows later, that we didn’t know that the last time we saw them would be the last time we saw them. I can only imagine how I would be feeling next month, the final note receding from my brain.

What will I think of in the future, when I think of Faithless? Well, whenever I think of them, I don’t think of the 4 amazing live shows I’ve seen them do, all with Jo, two with my sister Helen, one with my sister Maria and another one with my mate Gabs- the only time I’ve ever seen him truly enjoy himself at a gig. No, I flash on myself as a 19 year old student in Leeds, the world at my feet. Feet which were up in our front area- to call it a garden would be furnishing it with qualities it never had; a view across the street to the Headingley Taps, a book in my lap and Reverence blasting out from the speakers in my bedroom window. Happy days!

If the album Reverence holds only good memories for me, then 1998’s follow up Sunday 8pm is a slightly different story. It was one of the last albums I bought before setting out for a year studying in Bilbao. I say studying, it was mainly drinking and sleeping. Trying to sleep, anyway. Ironically, I suffered terribly from insomnia, away from home, away from my friends and- irony overload- away from a faithless girlfriend. Against this background, one of my clearest memories is standing by the windows of the communal room in the halls of residence I was staying in, waiting for the sun to come up, listening to the mournful lament that is “Bring My Family Back”. And crying. I’m happier now, but that song never fails to move me.

On a trip back to London that winter, I finally got off with the girl everyone had fancied at school. Though our liaison didn’t go any further than that night- and looking back now, I have no idea how it happened, she was gracious enough to tell me that, if I really loved Faithless, then I should go out and see them, because they were a brilliant live band.

Not that I took her advice immediately. Zooming forward to the winter of 2004; Bilbao and Leeds, distant memories. The Faithless trademark- slow start, big build up and then earth shaking climax sound, has been replaced by something more sophisticated. Something more emotional, maybe. Not to say that We Come 1, Insomnia and Salva Mea aren’t emotional experiences for the audience, because they are. But in a more euphoric way. The Brixton Academy, on a cold winter’s night, feels like the hottest place on earth. It is a night on which you feel the building could quite possibly disintegrate. It is also a night that leads me to getting my name on the back of the fanzine released with the Forever Faithless collection, “two hours of euphoria” indeed.

And that led onto their Forever Faithless show at the Ally Pally. A late night show that, at the time, Jo and I felt a little disappointing compared to the sheer joy of Brixton. But it was a show that came at the end of my first week on a six week contract for an organisation I’m still working for now. It was the show that Gabs enjoyed so much and, most importantly, it is the show that Faithless filmed for their first ever live dvd. Watching it now induces goosebumps, the memory of how I didn’t want We Come 1 to stop hurtles towards me, Sister Bliss imperious behind her keyboards as Maxi whipped up a frenzy. We sat on the steps afterwards and were regaled by a girl singing the Scooby Doo theme tune. It was that kind of night.  Jo and I went to a Brixton show later that year, but by then, even though it was a good show and Helen had joined us, the thrill had gone a bit. Helen loved it though.

So, last year, when they announced their O2 shows, I got tickets for Jo, for Helen and for Maria and we headed off to Greenwich at the appointed hour. We danced,we jumped (I’m getting too old for this, I thought) and my legs suffered the next day. Looking around, there were a lot of people in the arena that seemed like they might have been the age I am now when the band started out. A great night came to a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion when Helen overheated and had to go looking for a bottle of water before she passed out- the bars being closed and unable to provide her with one. So, we moved to the back for the closing We Come 1 and didn’t hear Maxi’s heartfelt thanks to the crowd; we were on our way out by then.

And so, the nineteen year old student has become a thirtysomething professional. I’m older, slightly fatter, my hair has begun to turn grey but I have a head full of brilliant memories. Most importantly, I will always have the music. Faithless are a band always quick to thank their fans, I say thank you to them. It’s been a wonderful, emotional journey and I wouldn’t have missed a second of it. You will be missed now.

We Come 1- Alexandra Palace

Insomnia- Alexandra Palace

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