ON THE ROAD: Roddy Frame @ O2 Empire—Shepherd’s Bush / London, UK / May 22, 2014

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Over 30 years ago in 1983, I was thrilled to be introduced to the talents of a 19-year old Roddy Frame through the praises of Elvis Costello. I was further privileged to see Frame’s band, Aztec Camera, open three dates on Costello’s American tour that year. Despite some later moderate success over here, Aztec Camera played limited shows on this side of the Atlantic. I honestly doubted that I would ever see him perform live again; however, I remained loyal following every record through Frame’s career including his eventual status change to a solo artist.

Remarkably, a business trip found me in London the same time Frame would be doing a showcase concert for a new solo release, Seven Dials, his first in eight years.Oddly enough, the show would be at the venue where I last saw a concert in the U.K.—20 years before.

Arriving at the 7:00 p.m. door-opening time, I was surprised to be one of the first there. My good fortune put me at the very front of the stalls where for the entire evening there would be no one between me and the performer. Just prior to show time, the venue filled to near capacity with what turned out to be a room full of passionate adoring fans of the Glasgow native.

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Backed by a full band, Frame walked into a tremendous ovation that brought a big smile to his face. Although his once youthful face shows some signs of age, he still retains a boyish charm.  He proved to be one of the most joyful entertainers I have ever seen. He seemed to be having so much fun, skipping about the stage and ending practically every song with an exuberant leap onto the drum riser.

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Frame told us at the start we would be hearing new songs. I had not yet heard anything from the new record (not out in the U.S. or on Spotify), but each and every new song managed to capture my full attention. When he went back to his debut 1983 classic High Land, Hard Rain for “Walk Out to Winter,” I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.  

One thing that really struck me this evening was the absolute brilliance of Frame’s guitar playing. In fact, he may very well be the finest acoustic guitar player I have ever seen. This tonight, I got the treat of hearing the flamenco opening to Aztec’s biggest song “Oblivious” a mere three feet from Frame playing it at the front of the stage.

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During his solo encore segment, he honored a Twitter request for his early song “Mattress of Wire.” At song’s end, he asked if the chap was there. To much surprise, he found that it was a youngster right front and center with his Mum and Dad. This lad likely wasn’t even born when this song was released, but his folks sure raised him with good taste in music.

In the early Nineties, Aztec unleashed a slicker side with their Love album which I found to be a bright spot in Frame’s career. A lively version of “Somewhere in My Heart” was perhaps the highlight of the evening for me.

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The 100-minute set was a captivating performance and ranks among the best shows I have seen in a long time. I certainly hope to get the opportunity to see Frame again somewhere along the line. Music City should roll out the red carpet for this brilliant singer-songwriter.

SETLIST:

  1. Forty Days of Rain
  2. Bigger, Brighter, Better
  3. White Pony
  4. The North Star
  5. Into the Sun
  6. Walk Out to Winter
  7. The Crying Scene
  8. English Garden
  9. On the Avenue (to lone piano accompaniment)
  10. Killermont Street (solo)
  11. The Other Side (solo)
  12. Lost Outside the Tunnel
  13. Oblivious
  14. Somewhere in My Heart
  15. Postcard
  16. Mattress of Wire (solo)
  17. Down the Dip (solo)
  18. Birth of the True (solo)
  19. We Could Send Letters
  20. Back on Board

 

BAND:
Roddy Frame – lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars and harmonica
Tom Edwards– electric guitar
Adrian Mehan– drums
Amulf Linder– bass
Owen Parker– backing vocals and keyboards

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One comment

  1. Kia b · · Reply

    Great show I travelled from San Francisco to see roddy and was not disappointed. He was in such great spirits as your review suggests. The new album is his best since the legendary “surf”. Highlights on the new lp are “postcard”, “on the wave”, “from a train” and the wonderful “forty days of rain”

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