FM are far from being the only classic 1980’s band still on the touring circuit after enjoying a second wind. Something that’s a little less usual though, and what makes them stand out from the pack, is what they’ve been up to since reforming 12 years ago. Five of their ten studio albums (plus the rerecorded Indiscreet 30) have been released by their current incarnation, so (unlike several of their peers who have given us very little new material) this is not a band resting on their laurels. And what we get with The Italian Job is a career-spanning live show that nicely mixes some of FM’s early hits with a range of their more modern tunes.
‘Black Magic’ is a terrific opener. This track from latest studio album Atomic Generation (one of two from that 2018 recording) has a real groove, and this is melodic rock with a real bluesy feel. From that point on, it’s a well-balanced sixteen-song set. There are four tracks from each of the breakthrough albums of the 1980’s, but this isn’t simply a live greatest-hits album, there are a couple of deep cuts in here, too.
The rich keyboards of Jem Davis come to the fore on ‘I Belong to the Night’. Davis’s work stands out on several songs, but the balance is just right and his keyboards never drown out the guitars. In fact, the mix of the whole show is superb, and it all has an edgier sound than we get on the studio versions (even though some of the backing vocals sound suspiciously like studio overdubs, which is a shame).
‘Let Love Be the Leader’ is a slice of near-AOR perfection, with a hook you could catch a great white on. Jim Kirkpatrick’s soaring guitar work floats above a haunting intro from Davis, but once Steve Overland kicks in, this is a song made for audience participation. A little later, the crowd won’t let ‘Killed By Love’ end, keeping the chorus going long after the band have stopped.
It’s good to get a full show as opposed to a mish-mash of highlights culled from different performances – the whole thing flows better because of it, and it feels like an event instead of a ragbag collection of songs. The likes of ‘Closer to Heaven’ and ‘Story of My Life’ slow things down a bit, before ‘Bad Luck’, which closes the main set, and the three-song encore round things off with the more up-tempo side of FM.
It’s become a cliché to say that Overland has one of the best voices of the genre, but that doesn’t make it untrue. And by the time we get to ‘That Girl’ and ‘Other Side of Midnight’, which remind us of where it all began, he and his comrades have taken us on an AOR tour de force.