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Live Review: White Lies with Frankie Rose at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 22nd February 2014

 
By on Monday, 24th February 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

White Lies – or probably more accurately, their management team – don’t think that highly of DC. I’ve now seen the West London band every time they’ve come to our city. All three times. They’ve played in New York a countless number of times, but as a result of not appearing here all that often (the last time was nearly 2 and a half years ago, and during the interim, I’ve been silently fuming over the fact they’d skipped us several times; note to bands: don’t do this to me!), I think their fanbase here is probably less dedicated and more fractured. Being a Saturday night, I knew the Ealing band’s latest show in town to support their third album, 2013’s ‘Big TV’ (reviewed by me here), would be well attended. It just wouldn’t be sold out. White Lies has the benefit (or handicap, depending who you talk to, I guess) of bassist Charles Cave’s rather gloomy and always fatalistic lyrics. I went looking for the goths Saturday night, and there were none to be seen! Maybe they were all skulking in the shadows?

The soft-spoken (yet hard rocking) Frankie Rose, then, seems to have been an odd choice for a support act. However, after the first of Miss Rose’s songs, choosing her made the more mixed male to female ratio than I usually used to make more sense. I nearly went deaf by the man who was shouting “I love you!” at her. Gotta appreciate his fervor, though. I saw her open for Franz Ferdinand last autumn and she definitely was more in her element in a club setting than at a posh symphony hall. Wearing black sequined shorts that allowed her to show off her nice legs and thighs, it was nearly more than the testosterone around me could handle.

She seems like a really light-hearted person, the kind of woman you’d invite round for tea and have wonderfully honest conversations with. So it strikes me a bit odd that two of the songs in her less than 30-minute set were of the “spooky” and “scary variety, and she also managed to make fun of, jokingly, the more amorous concertgoers: “Who’s here on a date?” ::pauses:: “Really? Eww…” One of the more emotionally real moments of her set was when she described her new album ‘Herein Wild’ as explaining the good way “how truth always comes up to the top, even if you don’t want it to”. A good example of this is ‘Question/Reason’, which Rose described to The Line of Best Fit as her favourite song to play live, and it shows.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been quite a long time since White Lies graced a stage in Washington. Unlike the two past times I’d seen them, something was palpably different. In the club atmosphere of the Black Cat coheadlining with Friendly Fires in 2009, the trepidation in frontman Harry McVeigh was visible on his face, until the crowd got behind them, allaying his fears. Two years later bringing second album ‘Ritual’ with them, they returned looking like conquering heroes, drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown hitting his kit so hard, I was sure it would spontaneously explode into a million piece with one wrong beat. Third time’s a charm, so they say, and in White Lies’ case, I’d say they’ve eased into their position as not necessarily elder statesman of gloom and doom rock (I think the Smiths have that sewn up) but certainly celebrated alt rockers who have proved their worth in longevity.

The set was heavily peppered with songs from their 2008 debut ‘To Lose My Life…’, much to the delight of everyone down the front. I was actually quite surprised by the band choosing to do this, figuring there would have been a heavier emphasis on ‘Big TV’ tracks. I was shocked when non-singles ‘A Place to Hide’ and ‘EST’ made an appearance; I wasn’t as shocked when ‘Unfinished Business’ was played, though it was a nice touch by McVeigh to remind everyone that it had been the first song they’d written and without its release, we’d probably have never heard of them. ‘Death’, which closed out their set before the encore, was played no longer as the hugely pogo-inducing set of my memory; just prior to the bridge, the tempo slowed down almost like a fake song ending, which had the effect of destroying the song’s momentum.

However, there were more high points than low. As I had predicted beforehand, the bombast of newer song ‘First Time Caller’ sounded massive on the 9:30 stage, as did that of ‘Mother Tongue’, though I’m still having trouble getting my head round the rather lumbering words. And if you thought the reach of Prince‘s secretive shows in the UK did not extend out to North America, think again: the headline set also included a strange cover of ‘I Would Die 4 U’ that relegated Lawrence-Brown on xylophone and McVeigh on synth. I’ve never been a massive Prince fan, so I didn’t get much out of this, save sensing it was one of the band’s greatest wishes to perform a Prince cover live and given their current stature, why not?

Now that the band have three albums to their name, it stands to reason that before White Lies even contemplates going out on tour, they’ve got to make some hard decisions about their set list, and not all of their choices on the North American tour were great. While I would have rather preferred a far more frenzied response from the punters Saturday night, I think the reaction I witnessed speaks to White Lies’ fanbase these days: reverential, rather than manic and fanatical. Just like the band has grown up, so has their fans.

After the cut: White Lies’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: White Lies with Frankie Rose at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 22nd February 2014

 

Live Review: Franz Ferdinand with Frankie Rose at Strathmore Hall, Bethesda, MD – 17th October 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

There are certain bands that sit in my head filed under ‘Never Going to See Them, Ever’, with the assumption being that they’ll only ever play stadiums or festivals I won’t want to or aren’t able to physically be at. So when indie rock giants Franz Ferdinand were announced as a headliner, oddly enough in the symphonic hall-cum-sometimes rock show venue when hired by the 9:30 Club people, located in the DC / Maryland suburb of Bethesda, I couldn’t say no.

Frankie Rose 2013 live 2

The oddest of the posh splendour of the place was not lost on opener Frankie Rose, who announced to everyone when she first came on stage, “this is odd!” I understand her confusion: just days prior, she’d played with the Scots at the famous Emo’s in Austin, which isn’t known as a concert hall. At all. To give you some idea about Strathmore, the place is covered in this beautiful smooth, blonde wood and if you’re there for a rock show, you almost feel like you should be whispering at a band, not shouting. To her credit, Rose played a wonderful set even though predictably, many of the ticketholders for the night showed up later only for Franz. As you all probably know from reading TGTF, I generally avoid female singers entirely, and in this particular case, the only research I’d done was pull up Rose’s Twitter account to see if I could glean any information about her style based on what she revealed about herself on there. Her description reads “CHAOTIC NEUTRAL”, all capital letters. This goes back a while, but I grew up with a brother who was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons so much that ‘chaotic’ became part of my early childhood lexicon, so I imagined her genre to be ‘riot grrl with face paint, black nail varnish and ‘tude’.

Frankie Rose 2013 live

Thankfully, I was completely wrong. The beautiful Miss Rose came out onstage with a full band (guitarist, bassist and drummer) to complement her singing and her own guitar playing. I’m mildly psychic and can usually sense things about people, and there is just something about her that made me think, gosh, she must have been a palm reader in another life, because she seems such a kindly, wise old soul. This was further evidenced by the way she talked to us as if she was speaking with old friends, sweetly and entirely unpatronising, entirely self-deprecating while also aware that she was playing to a very large venue and quite a lot of people that probably what she’s used to on her own. Her style on brand new album ‘Herein Wild’ is more poppy than I would have ever expected: see: ‘Question/Reason’. But some songs also had New Wave and heavier rock elements to them (the wonderful ‘Street of Dreams’, ‘Into Blue’) that provide a nice segue from her previous roots in Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 1

Even before Franz Ferdinand took the stage, you could tell this was going to be an event. Full stop. Guitarist Nick McCarthy has equipment that reads “Franz Ferdinand” in an Old English (errr, Old Scottish?) style on it. (Complete with fake insects attached to it, I might add.) And you know how the new LP is called ‘Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Action”? Three axes on stage = three amps marked with either “WORDS”, “THOUGHTS” or “ACTION”. In the right order, left to right. I don’t care what you think, that’s just cool. My first giggle of the night was when frontman Alex Kapranos – who, admittedly, I had a huge crush on when their debut album came out – announced, “hello. We’re Franz Ferdinand, and we’re from Glasgow”. Um, shouldn’t everyone already know that if they’ve bought tickets to be here? I snickered.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 2

While the biggest hits and fan favourites would no doubt be played -their career-breaking hit ‘Take Me Out’, and the deliciously sneering attitude of ‘Do You Want To’ and ‘No You Girls’ – the variety of a set like this reminds us why Franz Ferdinand have such a huge worldwide following, even if they made fans wait 4 years after 2009’s ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ for their latest album. They’re just so damn entertaining. I’d forgotten the beauty of the lyrics and the Beatles-esque simplicity of the guitars in ‘Walk Away’ from 2005’s ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’. The hand and arm waving antics of both Kapranos and lead guitarist McCarthy to usher in ‘Ulysses’ were hilarious. Aforementioned ‘Do You Want To’ let Kapranos act as preening rock star, getting us to chant back at him the incredibly infectious refrains of “lucky, lucky / you’re so lucky!” again and again. While everyone was on their feet from the get go, I can’t leave out the dancing. As its name suggests, ‘This Fire’ turned the place into a boogie inferno, while ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’ and new single ‘Evil Eye’ (the latter with McCarthy on keys) were totally funky.

The set proved even more special in that unbeknownst to us, sat directly behind us were McCarthy’s second cousins who were local to the area. I’m still not exactly sure why the McCarthys who emigrated to America decided on DC as their landing point, but we have them to thank for requesting ‘Jacqueline’ as the opening song to the encore, to which Kapranos quipped, “you see? We do take requests occasionally!” This is one show I won’t soon forget. The last time the band played a headline show in the DC area was 2006. Next time, guys, don’t wait 7 years to come back, ok? We love ya.

After the cut: Franz Ferdinand’s set list.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 3

Continue reading Live Review: Franz Ferdinand with Frankie Rose at Strathmore Hall, Bethesda, MD – 17th October 2013

 

Tramlines 2012: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 20th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

As Saturday rises over Sheffield, the city is bustling as Tramlines becomes hotter than an extra hot peri-peri chicken; conveniently, placed within the heart of the city is the Nando’s New Music Stage and when TGTF arrives its none other than Mazes cooking up a storm. Well, I say storm, it’s a hot day and everyone’s sitting down in the square, but Mazes are enjoyable enough to set up the afternoon.

After this comes the pop vibes of Frankie Rose.  She’s got an almost Rose Elinor Dougall quality about her in that it’s bordering the indie line but her sound is still very much endearingly pop. Again, her unfamiliarity with many here washes over the crowd but she’ll have made some new friends this afternoon.

Alarm Bells come on next.  A band lost somewhere between their ex-Dananananaykroyd members and a sound similar to that of the likes of Young Legionnaire, they start well but are struck by an odd power cut mid-set. They try to play it off as drama but the communication of “we are Alarm Bells and this is called a public nightmare” says it all for the band. They need work, but once they’ve pinned the sound down, there’s definitely a future for the new band.

Before this has finished. TGTF pops up to the university arms to catch a few minutes of exciting new act Tip Yr Bartender but clashing set times means only a song or two are enjoyed before dashing back down the Sheffield grid once more to the Bowery. This Many Boyfriends are playing and they’re playing to a relatively crowded room, but when isn’t the Bowery crowded? It’s fuzzy, its fun and it’s fast, and the Leeds band have certainly done the right thing continuing after the tragic loss of their guitarist Peter Sykes last September. Of course due to running around only the latter part of their set is seen but you take what you can at a city festival; especially when it’s free.

Blessa follow but don’t quite have the same energy as just seen. I start to wonder if my plan of winging it this festival is proving to be the right choice and wander the city for a while before returning to the crowded room for Best Friends (above) and Peace (pictured at top). Best Friends continue to make me doubt even if they are a bit energetic with a moderate dollop of shoegaze whilst Peace rightfully fill the room with tracks from their as of yet limited catalogue and forthcoming EP.

And so, to end the night it’s across the streets of Sheffield to see local boys done good The Crookes. Fresh from the release of their second record, the band fill the upstairs room of the Shakespeare to an almost dangerous level. It’s hotter and sweatier than the most crowded of saunas and there appears to be no way of opening windows but as the band come on, for a while it stops mattering. They’ve got the same kind of buzz around them as Razorlight did around the ‘Up All Night’ era and quite frankly, with a performance like this, they deserve it.   It’s enjoyable to the point that even though it’s far too hot to move, many in the 100-sized room are doing so; someone’s even got a blow-up toy!

So it had been yet another mixed day of strange set times in a diverse set of rooms but on the most tiring set of the weekend so far it’s a positive home time tonight. The party continues through the night across the city but after that Crookes set, it seems fitting to stop there. Let’s see what Sunday brings.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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