An 80-minute set at SWG3 celebrates the underrated greatness of Friendly Fires' debut and the dance floor bangers they’ve released in the two albums since.
I guess you have to really like a band to go see them on a Monday night just before payday. Even more so if you're willing to battle against the Glaswegian winter weather conditions. For those reasons, its easy to see why many people simply wouldn’t bother. And yet, I ventured out anyway to see Friendly Fires because I really like them.
The walk to the gig tells its own story. The streets are eerily quiet and the usually bustling bars of Glasgow’s west end are either dead or not open for business. The wise have decided to remain in their cosy homes rather than head out, and who could blame them. Then again, why would you want to do that when a band as exciting as Friendly Fires are in town?
Fifteen years has passed since Friendly Fires released their self-titled LP, the band marking this celebration with a special UK tour: "join us to raise a glass and have a dance – it’s gonna be special” they’d reveal in a promotional press release. Unfortunately for Glasgow, the city drew the short straw for the seven-date tour, being granted the dreaded Monday night slot - thus explaining why tonight’s gig isn’t a sell-out.
The date is something frontman Ed Macfarlane apologises for almost as soon as he reaches the stage. Thankfully Friendly Fires bring enough weekend vibes to help cure our collective Monday blues. Tonight’s performance takes place in the smaller of the SWG3 venues, surprising considering the fanfare which surrounded this tour and the fact they haven’t played in Glasgow in over four years. To their credit, the band seem completely unfazed and genuinely appreciative that an early week crowd of a few hundred have gathered to party with them.
Though it would only peak at number 21 on the UK official albums chart upon its release in September 2008, by the end of the decade Friendly Fires was one of the most acclaimed records around. A charismatic album, gritty enough for indie rock fans and funky enough for those into dance music. Mercury Prize, NME Award and BRIT Award nominations were soon to follow, while several tunes such as ‘Skeleton Boy’ and ‘Paris’ would become staples of many an NME-loving indie fan's playlist. Tonight, the album is celebrated in full to an adoring crowd of 30 and 40-somethings seemingly keen to be taken back to their party days of yesteryear.
As soon as the dreamy synths hit on opener ‘Jump In The Pool’, we know Friendly Fires mean business, the crowd needing little encouragement to chant the song’s title back at Macfarlane. The first album is played back in the exact track order you’d find it on the record. The record’s singles ‘Paris’ and ‘Skeleton Boy’ receive the best response, greeted with as much gusto as the crowd can muster. Meanwhile, forgotten album tracks like ‘In The Hospital’ and ‘Lovesick’ get the bodies moving even more so and as the show progresses, Macfarlane dance moves grow in confidence. His erratic swaying adds plenty of value to the night’s entertainment. Like great frontmen, it’s difficult to take your eyes off him.
Friendly Fires finish the first part of their set with an impassioned performance of debut album closer ‘Ex Lover’. Within the encore, they then deliver six newer tracks, the audience in dance floor bliss to tunes like ‘Love Like Waves’ and ‘Heaven Let Me In’ from 2019’s more polished comeback record Inflorescent. However, the highlight of the encore would be ‘Hawaiian Air’ from 2011’s second album Pala, the crowd giving it a reaction to rival anything from their debut.
An extended version of ‘Kiss Of Life’ (the 'ooohs' distractingly drawing a comparison to Duck Sauce’s 2010 hit ‘Barbara Streisand') has Macfarlane lose himself on stage in a frenzy of hip shuffling. Then the lights come on and it's time for home. An 80-minute set celebrating the underrated greatness of Friendly Fires' debut record and a flavour of the dance floor bangers they’d released in the two albums since. All in all, Friendly Fires prove they haven’t lost their ability to thrill audiences. A Monday night well worth leaving the house for.