Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Roddy Frame

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow - 02 December 2014

Roddy Frame 

It's a formidable task for me to write an objective review of a Roddy Frame live performance, because his songs are like time stamps that bookmark key sections of my life. I grew up listening to his work - from the Aztec Camera/Postcard Records days, through the Rough Trade records and then his various solo releases. Many of the tracks evoke a strong feeling of time and place. 

I recently purchased his latest work,  Seven Dials, which was recorded at Edwyn Collins' London studio and was released on his AED Records label. Their relationship dates back to the days when Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and Postcard Records' boss Alan Horne sat in the Equi Cafe in Sauchiehall Street, plotting global domination. So it's great to see them sparring again. The new album is good, and gets better on repeated listening.

I've seen Frame in concert several times before, mostly in relatively small venues during his Aztec Camera days, once solo in the Edinburgh Playhouse and once headlining a late summer gig (with Del Amitri) at Edinburgh Castle - but it has been quite a while since our paths have crossed, so it was with some anticipation that I climbed the steps of the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

The venue was full to busting (with the exception of 2 empty rows in the middle of the stalls for some strange reason) by the time the band picked their way carefully across the darkened stage accompanied by some considerable crowd noise. However the audience saved the real cheers for Roddy Frame as the spotlights came on and he bounced onto centre stage looking pretty damn youthful. "Hello Glasgow!" he grinned. 

Picking up his acoustic guitar, he launched straight into the first few chords of Oblivious and the curiously subdued audience clapped politely (more about this later). I had actually forgotten what a virtuoso Frame can be on the guitar and on this track he showed just how good he is. 

Over the next two hours we were transported back and forth through a song selection that covered the last 3 decades, with a reasonable but not huge emphasis on the new album.
Backing vocals too
The band were well rehearsed and with 2 backing vocalists-come-violinists on several tracks, the sound was really excellent, however whether it was the nature of the venue, or the fact that the audience were almost all of a certain age, I am not sure, but the place was not exactly buzzing. Even after Oblivious and Deep And Wide And Tall, there was an almost rapt silence between songs. 

Roddy then suggested that because it was such an intimate homecoming gig, and everyone was so quiet, that perhaps he could chat a bit about the songs too. He went on to talk about when he went to America, met a girl, spent time in New Orleans listening to so many different types of music, and how this was the inspiration for Bigger Brighter Better. 

Next up was 40 Days Of Rain, apparently inspired by a time when he was going through some serious heartache (no details) and his visit to Winchester Cathedral, seeing the Shrine of St. Swithun and the legend of how if it rains on St. Swithun's day we all get rained on for 40 days. He said "Those of you who don't know me - well this is the kind of thing I like to write songs about" with a cheeky grin.

Gradually the audience were warming up. Roddy asked how 2014 had been for us, and went on to say that 2014 had been a year of mishaps and change, but a great year for him. His tour manager broke his foot, he got this new band together and he'd recorded his new record at AED Studios where "Edwyn Collins is the boss. In fact I think Edwyn is a real mogul these days" This was the introduction to the first number from Seven Dials - White Pony - a song about life, just taking some time out to stop and look around at where you are and what's important.

Postcard (possibly my least favourite) and a soulful version of Working In A Goldmine were next. These were followed by In Orbit, just organ and drums with Frame on tambourine ("I've had a spiritual conversion" he joked) and On The Avenue was piano and violin backed. Both really special moments.

Down The Dip was done solo with Frame on acoustic guitar. Because it shares some chord sequences with Dylan's It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) a verse and chorus of this were added at the end in frenetic style. 

The beauty of We Could Send Letters marked the first audience singalong and by this time the local worthies in the audience were giving it large, lots of shouts and repartee, most of which Frame dealt with in sparkling form. One particularly persistent chap, who had seen Aztec Camera at the Barrowlands 30 years ago and was still wearing the same t-shirt he bought that night, was not to be put off and continued to make a lot of noise. Cleverly he was asked his name - Neil Howie - and this seemed to satisfy his quest for stardom and he quietened down.

They finished up the first set with The Crying Scene and Somewhere In My Heart.

The first encore was a track from Frestonia, possibly the least well know of Frame's solo albums. The song was Rainy Season and it really worked - slowed things down with a section reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac and Albatross, before a blitzing finish.

Of course, this was a homecoming gig, so despite the band leaving the stage again, we all knew it wasn't over and sure enough, encouraged by lots of noise Roddy came back on alone to perform Killermont Street, that hymn to the bus station just across the road. A heartfelt early song which somehow morphed into Wild Mountain Thyme with Frame on harmonica. It sounds cringe-worthy, but everyone sang along and it felt fine.

The band re-joined Frame and a gospel fuelled version of Back On Board finished the set.

Memorable gig for the inter-song chat and the song selection.
Everyone left in good spirits.

-- Setlist --
Deep and Wide and Tall
Bigger Brighter Better
40 Days Of Rain
White Pony
Working in a Goldmine
In Orbit 
On the Avenue
Let Your Love Decide
Down the Dip 
We Could Send Letters
The Bugle Sounds Again
The Boy Wonders
Walk Out To Winter
The Crying Scene
Somewhere In My Heart
-- Encore --
Rainy Season
-- Encore 2 --
Killermont Street
Back On Board 

Support was:

Miriam Jones

Originally from Cranbrook (British Columbia) and now based in Oxford UK, Miriam Jones has been tagged as part of the Americana/Folk-Rock/Singer-Songwriter genre. I guess that kinda covers it, but that doesn't give you an insight into the quality of her songwriting. 

Miriam Jones at Royal Concert Hall Glasgow
About half the Glasgow audience were still milling about in the bar/foyer area when Miriam took to the stage. On this occasion, Miriam was joined by Simon Edwards on bass (ex Fairground Attraction) 

The audience were a little on the quiet side, but Miriam chatted about how lovely Glasgow was in the sun, and how unexpected that was. She said she'd been out to the Kelvin Art Gallery and seen some lovely pieces of art, and was really enjoying Glasgow. "Kelvingrove" someone in the audience shouted out. "Ah yes, it was Kelvingrove Art Gallery" Miriam responded. 

Simon Edwards on bass & Miriam Jones
She played many of the songs from her upcoming release Between Green and Gone, but the standout tracks for me were Don't Be Hard On Me, Missed You, Train and Float. The songs were in turns introspective & thoughtful, followed by downright rocky. With Edwards on bass and Jones swapping between acoustic and electric guitar, the set was really lovely - gradually drawing more of the die-hard drinkers from the bar into the auditorium. 

The final applause at the end of her set was heartfelt and warm.

I was able to purchase a pre-release version of Miriam's new album and she even signed it for me. I will follow her progress with interest.


  1. Very Comprehensive - I had forgotten already some of these incidents - and they only happened last week! I noted too the subdued feel to the opening half-hour or so, which Roddy rode well.

    1. I enjoyed the gig. Was also looking out for a friendly face but didn't spot you