There he was: Wearing a crimson leisure suit with a gold chain around his neck, track shoes on his feet, and a cane in his hand — dressed, essentially, like a trashy Italian pimp.
The inimitable Mike Patton led Faith No More through a Saturday night Coachella set that was excellent, but over too soon.
The reunited seminal funk/pop/metal act opened, fittingly enough, with “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb. Their straight-faced delivery of that smooth, sexual R&B hit wouldn’t have been possible without Patton’s propensity for impeccable crooning — an ability he turned on its head moments later for the infinitely more raucous 1989 FNM track “From Out of Nowhere.”
Barking, shouting, spitting and growling, Patton hurdled his walking stick into the blood-red curtain behind his band before executing a gymnastic series of leaps and lurches. When he came up for air, he had a question for the crowd:
“Are we having fun, Coachella?” Hearty applause. “I don’t know — you look confused. I know we look like we’re 80 years old, but give us a fucking break.”
Truth be told, the rest of the band showed its age. Drummer Mike Borden’s trademark waist-length dreadlocks had long gone gray, keyboardist Roddy Bottum looked like a loopy banker in his tie and dress shirt, guitarist Jon Hudson wore the dour visage of a mortician, and original bassist Billy Gould nursed a glass of red wine between songs.
But Patton? The project-hopping evil genius — the erstwhile voice of Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, and what seems like a dozen other bands — was virility personified.
Which isn’t to say the others didn’t pull their weight. Faith No More were exceptionally heavy, bearing all the hallmarks of late ’80s/ early ’90s metal: outsize bass, skittering guitar effects, synthesized strings, and drums that thud and thump.
The four-piece played fast and loose with its catalog, going as far back as debut single “We Care a Lot” (which solicited a sing-along despite being 22 years old and relatively obscure) and as recent as “Last Cup of Sorrow,” from FNM’s final 1997 release, Album of the Year.
Naturally, they hit a lot of favorites along the way — including “Surprise! You’re Dead,” “Midlife Crisis,” and “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” — and delivered a couple of surprises.
A cover of Michael Jackson’s “Ben” found Patton out among the masses and, eventually, crowd-surfing his way back to the stage.
And during the slow-grooving closer “Just a Man,” actor Danny Devito ran across the stage with his shirt wide open and an even wider grin on his face.
“Alright, Coachella, you still fuckin’ horny?” Patton snarled before the band dove into its only megahit, the still inescapable “Epic.”
If there was a problem with the set, it was that despite his amped-up spazzy rapping and Faith No More’s full-tilt approach, this show felt like foreplay to a much greater, more epic performance.
Maybe that’s still to come.