Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Frames - Vic Theatre - 11.23.2010

Saw The Frames at the Vic last night.

Generally a fun show. I can't say it was overwhelmingly great, or anything, that would be pushing it. There were definite high points, but there were also long sections where I really felt things dragging. The band hasn't played together in a long time, and frontman Glen Hansard kind of intimated the show was a work in progress right from the top.

The band is great, let's get that out of the way right from the top. There's a ton of talent in the group, and Hansard is an engaging, funny presence. He's also got a hell of a voice. There were a few screw-ups, which Glen seemed to revel in, but the music was played solidly, and with conviction. The main thought I have today, thinking back on the experience, was that I saw the tour too early.

The problem, at least in my opinion, and I'm sure to get hate mail for this, is that the setlist was not really organized well. The show was a bit herky-jerky and stop-start, we'd get through a stunning uptempo number, I'd be ready for the show to kick into full throttle, and the next song would undercut the momentum. It's a turn of events that's not only a bit annoying, but also exhausting. I just got tired, and despite the high energy of Hansard and everyone on stage, the song order started to work against them.

One factor in that, honestly, is that...God, I'm gonna hear it for this...a lot of The Frames songs sound, and develop, in very much the same way. There's a streak in Hansard's writing that plays out like this;
  • Opening verses are low and intimate, almost conversational.
  • The chorus kicks it up a notch.
  • Second verse back to low and intimate.
  • Second chorus Hansard goes into his SUPER-INTENSE EMOTIONAL WAIL.
  • This carries through to the end of the song.
Now there's nothing good or bad about that. It's just the formula, hell, AC/DC has been writing the exact same song, over and over, for 30 years, and nobody complains. It's simply the way Hansard writes, and I admit, it shows off the strength and range of his voice exceedingly well.

The problem is, the strongest songs in the catalog reach outside of that formula, and when you hit one of those like the chills-inducing, utterly amazing song  Revelate, I am ready for more rocking...and it's back to the formula. Honestly, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Revelate wasn't in the encore, or even ending the first set. Instead two more songs, that I can't help but sit there and think, "man, not as good as Revelate."

I know I'm harping on this one particular song, but it's Just. That. Good. It's one of those kind of songs that anyone would want to write. Some people go their whole lives trying to write a song like that.

Thing is, when you don't lay out your songs well, you end up climbing the same hill over and over again. There's no ebb and flow, no natural slide from higher energy to low. You'll get the audience absolutely with you, energy-wise, and if you pick the wrong song to follow, it's gone. Then, you have to work the audience back up to that point, all over again. This is why it becomes exhausting for an audience, you're wanting to float along with the band, but you keep crashing down, then back up, then down, then up.

also, if you're going to play new material, that we have no way of ever having heard before, aim for the middle of the main set. When you're wrapping up, we want to hear stuff we know, stuff we can sing along to, and, y'know, commune with the band.

A side rant here, and it's not just The Frames problem, it's amazingly widespread with bands, although last night was a really good example.

For God's sake, can we make an encore mean something again? I'm tired of "encores" that are almost as long as the main set. It's just a joke. I suppose the idea is to make you think you're getting to hear all these extra songs, but, damn it, we know you're going to come back. We know it's all a game, it's right there on the setlist.. Instead of playing for an hour, walking off for 3 minutes in darkness, and then playing another hour, just play 2 hours and give us a REAL 3-4 song encore.

Looking back over this, I know it seems really negative. I'll be honest, I've seen better shows, but I thought The Frames were quite good. I think Glen being upfront about the "work in progress" nature of the show both explains, and forgives a lot. I actually envy the people who'll catch the tail end of this tour, because I bet they'll work out the setlist kinks, and it'll be a barn-burner.

Highlights - God Bless Mom, Lay Me Down, Star Star, Revelate, Fitzcarraldo

  • Headlong
  • Seven Day Mile
  • God Bless Mom
  • The Stars Are Underground
  • What Happens When the Heart Just Stops
  • Finally
  • Happy
  • Lay Me Down
  • Rent Day Blues (snippet of Rhinestone Cowboy sung) 
  • Pavement Tune
  • Star Star (with teases of Pure Imagination & Hotellounge)
  • Revelate
  • Friends and Foe
  • People Get Ready
  • Perfect Opening Line
  • Santa Maria
  • Disappointed
  • Dance the Devil Back Into His Hole
  • New Song (listed as "New Song" on setlist) 
  • New Song (Joe on vocals, listed as "Joe" on setlist) 
  • Fitzcarraldo
  • The Auld Triangl

1 comment:

  1. I would have loved to have been at this show either way. Would have liked to see "Fake" on the setlist...

    Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to ya!