Roddy Frame at the Barbican
In a sophisticated venue, two miles away from the beloved Seven Dials that Roddy Frame labelled his new album after, the over-thinking Scot vocalised his own crossroad junction of life contemplations to a loyal fan base at the Barbican this week.
Frame has notoriously used both his band’s sextet collection and his solo career as a platform to express his views of love and life through personal and poignant lyrics, but tonight he used audience interaction as another self-expressive channel. It was part of an entertaining night in which Frame successfully mixed humour about social media and his homeland with a nostalgic set, made up of a majority of Aztec Songs from opener Oblivious to finale Back on Board. It was a crowd-pleasing return to the stage following the 30th anniversary of the his former band.
Among the classics, he only introduced the fans to three tracks from his fourth solo album, including the sentimental White Pony, which was dedicated to the late filmmaker John Hughes and his coming-of-age movies, with Frame associating them with his own suburban adolescence. The tributes were typical of Frames’ thankful personality and his best salutation went to the encore Rainy Season, which symbolised traditional Japanese music with keyboards and violins to show gratitude to Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamato and his production work for Aztec Camera. Frame’s vocals are always delightfully crystal clear, the antithesis to manipulated modern voices, but he was also supported by an exceptional modest band, backing singers-cum-violinists adding saccharine elegance.
Frame’s playful side was expressed effectively when he performed solo with his champion instrument, the acoustic guitar, on We Could Send Letters. He complemented this with a projected silhouette that highlighted his childhood muse Bruce Springsteen’s dance moves. Disappointingly, though, Frame’s most successful hit Somewhere in My Heart was oddly rushed rather than embraced, which diluted its infectious lyrics and pop charm in favour of forgettable fast-paced rock.
Despite the confident presentation, technicalities handicapped the entertainment. After a front-row observer commented on the low vocal volume, other problems arose, including awkward confusions with the set list, as well as tuning difficulties due to the self-confessed absence of a soundcheck. This led to large intermissions between songs and overlong rambles to fill the silences. Though all in all, it was merely a footnote on a double-encore set that was beyond satisfactory in its aim to summarise Frame’s well-celebrated career.
Matt Taylor Hobbs
Photos: Simon MK Crow
For further information about Roddy Frame and future events visit here.
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