Brit AOR stalwarts FM remain to this day one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen literally thousands of bands, including Lisa Dominique

But seriously, this is a band full of craftsmen (note: not merely proficient ‘artisans’ but truly talented sonic sculptors of melodic rock art), a group of musicians actually peerless in the UK at producing hard edged, bluesy AOR. And on this twenty three song live set the band prove over and over again just how good they are.

As the album’s title suggests, side one is dedicated to showcasing the grandeur of the band’s 1989 album Tough It Out, whilst side two affords the band a chance to roll out some long-lost fan and band favourites. There’s nothing here from the band’s incendiary Indiscreet debut, itself given a thirtieth anniversary tribute by the band in 2016, but that shouldn’t deter you from delving deep into this collection for some serious audial pleasure.

The first thing you’ll note is just how good the band sounds, from the opening signature clank of Merv Goldsworthy‘s bass on opener Tough It Out to the closing strains of the band’s blazing cover of Marvin Gaye‘s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, it’s clear that the band are in fine, fine form here. Frontman Steve Overland in particular shines throughout, giving a bravura performance of controlled vocal class, never over singing – though he certainly could – preferring to deliver on-point versions of each and every song featured. His relaxed matiness with the crowd is a high point too, as anyone who has ever attended an FM show will attest.

Being a ‘new boy’ in a band who wasn’t present at the time is always difficult, but guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick fulfils his lead duties superbly, especially on the Tough It Out material where he replicate Chris Overland’s exceptional playing with style and the degree of respect it deserves. Similarly keyboard maestro Jem Davis is faultless in remaking Didge Digital‘s ivory tinkling. And talking of Didge, he makes a guest appearance on Tough It Out‘s Burning My Heart Down. And then of course there’s Pete Jupp steering it all and holding things together at the back; maybe not as showy as he was in the band’s pomp – but still the rock solid heart of FM nonetheless.

But if the Tough It Out cuts still hold up as well as they ever did, it’s the deep cuts like Dangerous that will resonate deepest with long-term fans; the version here is quite superb, rolling back the years to the early eighties when it was a set regular; your humble interlocutor doesn’t mind admitting to a slight tremble in the lip on hearing this again…

Similarly Breathe Fire and Blood And Gasoline (both from 1992’s Aphrodisiac album) will get old hearts pumping just a bit faster, whilst of the newer material the Bryan Adamsesque hard rock of I Ain’t The One (from the 2010 ‘comeback’ album Metropolis) stands out as something of a diamond.

Great stuff then, for fans of FM old and hopefully new alike. And hopefully the band might actually be able to get down to Australia before to long with a show and a set list not too far from this before too long…

Tough It Out Live releases on April 9th.