The Los Angeles based rock band Failure opened a national tour in Lawrence on Thursday, two days after releasing its first album in 19 years.
Many members of the audience of about 1,000 were children when the trio dissolved in 1997. The reunited band’s imposing 90-minute performance fulfilled a long-held dream for people too young to have seen Failure when it last appeared the area in the late 1990s.
One of the few ensembles that places equal value on the elaborate classic rock of Pink Floyd and the disruptive grunge of Nirvana, Failure has long been a favorite act of alternative rock musicians.
Failure’s music has inspired acts ranging from the Foo Fighters to Sundiver, a Kansas City band that opened Thursday’s concert with an adept set that struck a masterful balance between punk aggression and psychedelic spaciousness.
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Anemic album sales and minimal attention from radio programmers didn’t reflect Failure’s outsized influence. The band’s reputation grew during its dormancy. Thursday’s outing indicated that Failure deserves the overdue adoration.
Failure opened with a bracing rendition of “Hot Traveler,” a track from the new “The Heart is a Monster” album. The selection demonstrated Failure’s knack for transforming distressed guitar riffs and damaged bass lines into magnificent sound sculptures.
Greg Edwards and Ken Andrews frequently traded playing bass and guitar while drummer Kellii Scott’s muscular work grounded the trio. Andrew’s plain voice contrasted sharply with the otherworldly lyrics and resplendent music.
Fans shouted along to “The Nurse Who Loved Me” and “Smoking Umbrellas” and bobbed enthusiastically to the hypnotic rhythm of “Frogs.” Yet the audience sat or stood motionless during much of the concert. The stasis wasn’t surprising.
With an emphasis on songs that augment chemically-enhanced adventures of imagination, Failure’s meticulously produced repertoire is often experienced through a combination of headphones and illicit substances.
Thursday’s presentation complemented the band’s gauzy songs. Each member of the trio was backlit by one of three video screens. The minimalist stage set gave additional resonance to lyrics like “you can’t feel your fingers” on the kaleidoscopic ballad “Mulholland Dr.”
By the time Failure concluded the evening with a majestic reading of the dramatically surrealistic “Daylight,” it was clear that the trio wasn’t trafficking in nostalgia.
Although Failure didn’t require vindication, Thursday’s concert served as a loud affirmation of Failure’s significance.