After an uneven and disappointing performance by Swervedriver, alt-rockers Failure delivered a powerful and eclectic set to an Orlando crowd at the Plaza Live on March 19th. English alternative band Swervedriver opened with a noisy set in which its shoegaze-influenced sound brought out the weaknesses of the genre, mostly Adam Franklin’s unintelligible vocals and a wash of indistinguishable instruments. The band did have some good moments, such as with the set-closing “Duel” and an energetic performance of “Sunset.” Drummer Mikey Jones contributed much more energy than the rest of the band and stood out from the cacophony.
After the uninspiring performance by Swervedriver, Failure took the stage and rocked out with its unique blend of alternative and space rock. It was an eclectic and impassioned set, with the band clicking on head-banging anthems, complex art rock textures, and some softer ballads. Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards switched back and forth between playing guitar and bass, with Andrews handling most of the singing.
Though Failure’s setlist spanned decades and five albums, a large chunk of it was dedicated to the 1996 breakout album Fantastic Planet, including playing four consecutive songs from that album early in the set. That four-song stretch showcased Failure’s depth and versatility. The atmospheric “Another Space Song” showed the band’s knack for densely layered psychedelics, while “Pillowhead” and “Smoking Umbrellas” saw the band laying down nasty dropped-D riffs with powerful sing-along choruses. While performing the band’s biggest hit, the anthemic “Stuck On You,” Edwards alternated between playing bass and laying down trippy licks on the synthesizer.
During the soft ballad “The Pineal Electorate,” one of the finest tracks off of 2018’s In The Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind, Edwards sat down at the keyboard and took over lead vocals, with Andrews playing bass during the first half of the song and then switching to guitar to shred through the solo. Throughout the performance, Failure plowed through grunge-influenced alt-rock and explored hypnotic sonic terrains. The best performance of the night had them rocking out as well as creating dense swaths of psychedelic ambiance. Closing the regular set with “Heliotropic,” Andrews laid down an infectious distorted bass riff while Edwards tore up the fretboard with his effect-laden, spacey riffs.
Accompanied by fantastic stage lighting that perfectly matched each song’s key fills and dynamic shifts, the Los Angeles trio rocked through a set with the intensity of grunge and the meticulous sonic details of art rock. For the encore, Failure returned to the set and played a dynamic rendition of “Screen Man” that had considerably more power and aggression than the album version.