Saturday 24 May 2014

Roddy Frame at The Shepherd's Bush Empire May 22nd + Unseen Aztec Camera photo by Paul Slattery from 1980

Roddy Frame - Photo copyright Richard Wood 2014
Roddy Frame played a rare live show last night to a packed out Shepherd's Bush Empire in support of his excellent new record "Seven Dials" and he achieved the unusual feat of playing over half of the album without, as he wryly commented "sending everyone scuttling off to the bar". He seemed genuinely moved by the rapt attention given to the new songs, and he was right when he said he loved the sound of silence between his songs. The blight of big gigs like this, and why I generally avoid them, is the modern day habit of people, not only chattering away between songs but during them too. I remember seeing The Go-Betweens at the same venue and losing my rag with some idiots for talking and laughing all the way through "Finding You", one of the most beautiful songs ever written! But thankfully Roddy's audience seem as nice as the man himself! I want to hate Roddy Frame, he looks preposterously youthful for his fifty years of age, stick thin and a full head of hair, I take a quick look at the guys in the crowd around me and notice a comforting amount of balding pates, glasses and expanding waist-lines, yep, I feel a bit better now! I think that his audience must be an Oscar Wilde "portrait", as we all get older and suffer the ravages of ageing, Roddy just seems to get younger. Not only is he an extremely talented singer, and guitarist but he seems annoyingly good-natured too, his between song banter is worthy of a stand-up routine in it's own right. 

Roddy Frame - Photo copyright Richard Wood 2014
Girls look on admiringly, there are shouts of "we love you Roddy" every now and then and guys think how nice it must be to have a pint or two and a good chat with him. He's a music fan, he knows the score, he  gently mocks the anorak tendencies of fans - "do you want more of the technical stuff and background to all the songs?" he asks. He also has a dig at journalists for misinterpreting his lyrics, "Someone said this song is about death, it's not, I'm only fifty for god's sake!" He then goes off on a tangent, musing that maybe he would have been more critically acclaimed if he'd have popped his clogs after his third album. But he's certainly alive and kicking, in fact he is positively bursting with energy, bouncing around as though he's in a boxing ring, a huge grin spreads across his face. 

Roddy Frame - Photo copyright Steve Worrall 2014
Tonight he is backed by the same band that performed with him on the "High Land, Hard Rain" gigs last year, but I think I prefer to see Roddy play solo gigs, just him and his acoustic guitar, as some of the arrangements seem a bit too much for me. There's the odd bit of guitar rocking-out that grates and the drummer is a bit snare-heavy. However, it does allow Roddy to showcase his versatility and he mixes up the performances nicely, switching from electric to acoustic guitars and back again. My highlights were the more subtle and moving movements of the gig such as a stunning version of "On The Avenue" from Frestonia where he is accompanied solely by the piano, and his voice takes on another dimension, he delivers it beautifully. "Killermont Street" is another stand-out but somewhat surprisingly it's a new song that really grabbed me, "Into The Sun" is surely destined to grow into a classic alongside "Oblivious" and "Somewhere In My Heart" and all his other big hits. 

Photo Copyright Richard Wood 2014
I was a bit disappointed not to get anything from "Surf", or indeed "Western Skies", but I suppose these are more suited to his one-man acoustic shows and I can't be greedy when we get treated to a great version of "The North Star", and an exuberant "Bigger Brighter Better", two of my favourites from his solo out-put. He is a truly underrated guitarist too, his intricate Flamenco flourishes and deft fretwork just make you gawp open-mouthed at his sheer dexterity. He really should get more credit, he's right up there with the greats. Early Aztec Camera single "Mattress of Wire" and a truly uplifting version of "We Could Send Letters" were also superbly performed and lapped up by the crowd and the set closes with a sweet and soulful "Back On Board". So, a thoroughly enjoyable night out in the company of Roddy Frame, let's hope it won't be so long until his next London gig.

Roddy Frame - Photo copyright Richard Wood 2014
With thanks to Richard Wood for the great photos, please check out more of his pictures here.

For our report on Roddy playing Aztec Camera's "High Land, Hard Rain" last December please check out the Blog archive feature here. Now, as a little bonus here is a previously unpublished photo of Aztec Camera taken in 1980 by Retro Man Blog contributor Paul Slattery...

Aztec Camera in 1980 - Copyright Paul Slattery

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