Live Show Review: Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Although we’re going to have to wait to see the full Failure documentary until 2023, for the 2022 segments of said cinematic biography of the band screened in lieu of an opening act for many if not all dates. In a sense the testimonials of Hayley Williams of Paramore, Margaret Cho, Jason Schwartzman, Tommy Lee, Maynard Keenan, David Dastmalchian, Troy Sanders of Mastodon, Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, Matt Pinfield, Butch Vig of Garbage and Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups opened the show with pithy and often poetic commentary on the impact of Failure on their lives and their music. And as compelling as these tidbits were they were a simple approximation of the band the way a written review can only be an abstraction of the visceral impact of the music and Failure’s gift for emotionally gripping, cinematic soundscapes as songs.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Often a band will have the drummer placed in the background but not so with Failure on this tour or on recent tours and maybe going back to the beginning. No, Kellii Scott is the engine and the glue that holds together Greg Edwards’ quiet intense energy as a musician and Ken Andrews’ more luminously volatile yet introspective expansiveness. It’s what makes the contradictions of the band’s music make sense and come together as forcefully and as gracefully as it does.

Ken Andrews of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Perhaps it was Margaret Cho who sagely referred to this music as “Space Goth” as it was melodramatic and dark and dreamlike, conflicted, gritty and ambient, industrial beats feeding into an evolving sonic infrastructure. There was something elegant in the underlying menace of so many of the songs and a sense that each song could scorch out from within. It all felt like it was on the precipice of an all consuming abyss and yet buoyed up by a desperate yet fatigued hope. The first two thirds of the set drew largely from the earlier albums and the more recent records and all of it seemed like a grand adventure through harrowing emotional spaces and built into each a thread of the promise of catharsis. And it all lead to the end of the show featuring the the final third of Fantastic Planet. “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” “Another Space Song,” “Stuck on You,” “Heliotropic” and “Daylight” were an arc of songs that felt mythic and like the kind of science fiction story you wish someone could make into a movie instead of the corny claptrap that passes for genre most of the time because it doesn’t often contain the weight of emotion and penetrating self-examination contained in those five songs. In the context of the album it was like hearing the epic conclusion of a classic science fiction trilogy but with modern sensibilities—like an art rock band helmed by Clifford Simak and A.E. Van Vogt.

Kellii Scott of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Greg Edwards of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

If you weren’t already completely drawn in by the whirlpool of melodic fuzz of “Another Space Song” then the strains of “Stuck on You” obliterated that resistance on into the tone grinder and transformative rumblings of “Heliotropic” and toward the epic heights and mythical denouement of “Daylight.” It was a musical experience that makes you forget other bands matter for a few days and that Failure had played the Bluebird Theater and not some gaudy enormodome like Ball or Wembley Arena because the music felt built for that scale.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy