In late summer 2002, State watched an emotional and triumphant Feeder emerge from the devastating ashes of the suicide of drummer John Lee, taking Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms by storm in what still stands as one of the most moving and epic nights of music we’ve ever experienced. Performing to no more than 500 people, the Welshman played their first show in nearly a year, unveiling the style that went on to become the stripped down, chilled-out rock of Comfort In Sound, and struggled on through the tears. A few days later, Feeder played arguably the most exultant show of their life, a late evening set in a Reading Festival tent was dangerous rowdy, and made it immediately apparent that the group’s experience had pushed them close to the heart of the UK’s rock loving public. Their name rang through the campsite for the remainder of the weekend.
Eight years later, and it’s a very different Feeder that stands oddly static under The Academy lights tonight. Having always erred on the summery, lighthearted side of rock (and with the not insubstantial claim of being the only relatively widely respected band ever to get away with repeating the word ‘lemon’ a dozen times in a row in a hit single), Feeder’s newer material has taken them in a far darker, edgier direction. While there are a few down the front who seem impassioned about the likes of new single ‘Renegades’ and ‘Call Out’, there’s an overwhelming nostalgia to the Feeder experience, one that focuses on the earlier part of their near twenty year history. Sometimes, the dark shades of the new tracks just don’t fit in.
In fact, Feeder’s live highlights still go way back. The emotive ‘High’ and lively ‘Insomnia’ still evoke the same tension and lively band-crowd reposts that they always did, geeing up a venue packed to capacity that quickly pipes back down when the newer songs come along. Mid-career smashes ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Seven Days In The Sun’ – whilst undeniably on the throwaway side of the rock genre – also go down a storm, yet there’s something not quite on the ball about the Welsh act tonight.
Perhaps it’s a touring lethargy or the curious juxtaposition of their older classics next to the starker vocals of their edgier new sound, but the set doesn’t click or meld in quite the way you’d hope. While Feeder have arguably clambered out of the ‘on the brink of extinction’ vibe that surrounded them a couple of years ago, tonight’s performance shows they’re still a long way short of their vibrant best, with Grant Nicholas only leaving his tiny patch of stage to high five the front row and showing only brief glimpses of the between track intros that once built the crowd onto such a high. The tiniest exert from ‘Quick Fade’ dropped in as an intro to ‘Buck Rogers’ is a perfect demonstration of just what Feeder are capable of, as is the charismatic yet gentile ‘Just The Way I’m Feeling’. For all the loving nostalgia, though, this is a group that’, sadly, has faded notably from their affecting peak.
Photos by Kieran Frost.