“I know I wont change any mind
As long as they’re still changing mine.”
– Other Light
This lyric sprung to mind as I sat down to properly review my twenty-third Finger Eleven experience since 1999. Why, you ask? Because until the band stops allowing the mainstream and status quo to dictate their musical choices, including setlists, it will be hard to convince me to move them back into my #2 slot for ‘favourite band to see live’ (a position they long held behind Tori Amos, but have now relinquished to The Dresden Dolls).
This comes off rather negative, but it’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the show; I had an amazing time, rocked out to my little heart’s contentment, and came home feeling my money was well spent. However, the decline I felt circa the S/T touring has continued. It’s not the live show, itself; the band is still a treat to behold live, with every member save Sean commanding attention with his stage presence. It’s not Scott’s voice. It’s not the light show that brings things down.
It’s the newer crop of fans, coupled with the band’s pandering to their likes, dislikes and their general younger mindset. This is what detracted from the show for me, and unfortunately, I don’t see it changing any time soon.
The intro loop/soundbite was… well, I’ve heard better on DJ sampler loops on Limewire. Seriously. It felt like an old band like The Rolling Stones attempting to be cool. What happened to entering to a wicked instrumental, like a NIN track? Jesus. Last I checked, you had a serious margin of fans who are nearly as old as the band members. Come on, guys. You are capable of much more class.
The crowd sucked, which always brings a show down for me. I have never understood why people bother to fight their way to the front of the moshpit, only to stand still like statues throughout the show. With the exception of those right in the centre of the pit, it was utterly motionless. I felt terrible for James Black, who had myself and a smattering of others before him who genuinely seemed into the show. Move over and let the happy fans through! The most movement I saw all night was (you guessed it) the mass singalong to One Thing.
This of course brings us to the setlist, which admittedly, I may have missed a song or two of since I was rather busy moshing. Overall, the song selection was decent. although I do have a few bitch points to make: a) Far too high of a proportion of tracks from the last two albums, especially given the set length (this is where that ‘pandering to the newbie fans’ comes in); b) Speaking of set length, you now have four albums, not counting Letters From Chutney, and 90 minute sets/16 song sets just do not cut it any more. Seriously. Tori Amos plays 2 hours and 15 minutes, 22-24 songs, some songs spanning 10 minutes. It wouldn’t kill you to add a few more songs to the night, and would allow you to work in the gems of the back catalogue like Costume For a Gutterball or Famous; and c) Tip. They skipped playing TIP. I feel like I just saw The Eagles and they skipped Hotel California.
The setlist choices were fairly predictable – fan favourites, singles, and the most generic/mainstream tracks from the new disc. I was extremely happy that Window Song (which I expected to be played, being as in my review of Them Vs You Vs Me, I pegged it as One Thing Pt 2) did not make an appearance, but I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague (the Thousand Mile Wish/superior ballad of this disc) did show. IKYMV is fast moving into my F11 Top Ten, nudging Stay and Drown out of the way. So-So Suicide is easily the best rocker of the album, and also an excellent call. However, Talking To The Walls and Lost My Way are paint-by-numbers tracks that could have been set aside for the more experiemental treats on the album (Easy Life! It’s brilliant! Sense of A Spark or the title track would have been more welcome choices as well). The back catalogue selections were decent for newer fans, being as with the exception of Tip and Drag You Down, all the classic singles/strong rockers made an appearance; however, for those of us around since before the S/T, it’s a damn shame that the gems are being shelved seemingly for good. I would love to hear My Carousel once more; it’s one of the best examples of guitar work in their entire repertoire. Consolation Day (that’s Awake and Dreaming to you newbies) is my favourite song by the band, and I’d naturally love that again. Tracks like Famous and Therapy, songs worthy of regular live rotation, have never crossed my ears, and are rarities live to my dismay. The lean towards S/T tracks was also a disappointment, although there were strong choices made (Obvious Heart, Good Times, and Absent Elements are all great tracks), and felt like a ‘play what made us big’ move.
The predictability of the set and general vibe left me, as a long-time supporter, feeling undervalued, as if those who kept the band going until they stumbled onto the success of One Thing (a song that most pre-S/T fans find weak and beneath the band, especially compared to tracks like Unspoken) are not as important. It actually flat-out pissed me off when that song received a Juno nod, as opposed to Thousand Mile Wish or even Good Times. Even in freebie paper 24 Hours, Jennifer Bill’s notes on the show insisted the band was riding high on the success of their third album, completely ignoring the strong following the band has had all along, or the strong performance of TGOBS single Drag You Down. For a band that has always bucked the status quo and really appreciated their fans (see: cancelled and relisted concerts to reduce ticket prices, allowing fans to phone them in studio, frequent video messages/updates, etc etc), to turn ‘mainstream’ and pay more mind to those who slid in when Top 40 radio latched onto a song I actually heard in my dentist’s office (so not a good sign for a hard rock band), fans that I watched only know the words to the S/T and TVYVM tracks at the show, it was disheartening. These are fickle folk, the kind who will move on to the next big thing, the next trendy band, in a heartbeat. Those of us who’ve stood by as the band migrated from side stage to main stage to co-headliners for Edgefest… we’ve done so out of genuine love for the band, beyond what the media says we ought to like or support. We’re the ones who’d actually enjoy seeing a few songs from Letters From Chutney resurface live for the sake of nostalgia. We’re the ones who promoted the hell out of the band, wanting them to succeed.
But success does not mean giving in to the status quo. See: Tool.
The live show is still tight, still high energy, and the band still obviously loves what they do. The encore cover of Guns ‘N Roses’ Patience was well worth the ticket cost alone. I will of course be at the next show, eagerly. I just expected a little more I suppose. Whether that is my youthful memory adding rose-coloured glasses to the good ‘ol days, I cannot say; I don’t believe that’s the case, unfortunately. Time will tell. For now, it’s the ‘them’ of the newbie fans versus ‘you’ the band versus me.
Setlist – Finger Eleven 5/1/07 Toronto (Kool Haus)
Lost My Way
I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague
Talking To The Walls