Home ReviewsRoddy Frame

Roddy Frame - University of London Union, Bloomsbury on 8 November 2002

Despite having taken some courses based at the University of London with a visiting troupe from my American University one summer----ironically, I now realise, the summer that Somewhere in My Heart was a hit, but a month later so I missed it-----this was my first venture into the University of London Union. I was expecting a typical performance hall, rather than being met with the strong smell of chlorine from the pool downstairs as soon as I came through the door, which took me back to my Uni days too long ago. Nevertheless, the scary, controlling bouncers who made us go back and wait outside in the drizzly cold and then sent us to various doors and still refused us entry until they warmed to the idea, made it more like an ordinary venue. Though another call back to student days was getting our hands stamped upon entry, curiously with ‘10% off at HMV,’ which would have come in handy later if I ever needed to purchase my hand at a discount, had I not washed it.

Roddy was due to play upstairs in Room 101, which is certainly the last place I would have put him. I can only assume the room name was a deliberate nod to Orwell, the UL being an educational institution, rather than a tedious coincidence of numbering. It was basically an open frill-free room fit for cramming almost 700 students in, with a stage and an upper level that had some seating for the older generation (Who am I kidding; I’m pushing 40 and would loved to have been seated, were it not so far away). I would roughly guess that about 250 people were there, and the venue was sensibly playing Crowded House to keep us happily entertained until the live music began.

The lighting engineers were on the upper level, and I can only think that they were either students or sadistic or both. Granted, many of us were right up front against the stage, but I have, over the years—mostly when I was a more sprightly young thing---taken that position at many great concerts, even ones with busy light shows like the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense tour, and yet I’ve never before so feared blindness. I spent almost the entire set of the support duo, Mouse, staring down at the floor or watching other people’s Guinness, which gave me time to wonder if the many cups precariously balanced on the stage beside the amplifiers might lead to electrocution, but then my voice of doom does take over when I’ve little else to do. I hope Mouse weren’t insulted by the fact that no one in their sights were watching them play. If I tried to look up, I would only see glaring lights pouring down on me as though I were being interrogated by the vague outlines of the people on stage, though there was evidence that they were simply singing. On one hand, it was heartening that a venue bothered to provide lighting other than a single bulb for an opening act at all, but on the other hand, I think the ‘LDs’ were confused about which of us were the performers, the raised stage apparently not giving enough of a clue. They could have done with some, uh, enlightenment.

So I stood, staring downwards, as though looking for a mouse rather than listening to them, expecting them to be dire after the report from Scotland, so with those expectations, they could only impress me really. I have heard worse, they were okay, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy their albums. The female vocalist had a voice a bit like the fabulous Northern Irish artist Juliet Turner, but rather than manipulating it in such an interesting way, she sounded a bit more like the love child of Joni Mitchell and Tiny Tim (for the lawyers amongst you, I’m not implying that such a child actually exists). Their songs were full of long lazy parts with the odd catchy line, and all sorts of other bits of different types of song just thrown in as though they were aspiring to design their own Bohemian Rhapsody or Day in the Life. But they were (shining!) happy, folky people with more talent than I have, so I am not knocking them. They probably looked neat, too, but basically what I saw was something like the video for David Bowie’s Heroes, but with a lot less Bowie and a lot more shining light.

Fortunately, despite all that, I managed with great odds to convince my friend that we really didn’t want to move to the Old Fogie Seats upstairs, much as my old fogie back would have liked to have done. Roddy didn’t keep us waiting too long, as he marched on shortly after 9pm, kitted out in his trusty jeans, tan loafers and a long sleeved cotton pale green shirt, with the left cuff undone and the right sleeve rolled up to the elbow. Strangely, though I am thrilled to report it, the lights were not quite as busy or as blinding during his set as during that of Mouse, so perhaps they really did let students practice during the support act and the graduates took over for the real thing.

Roddy welcomed us back to University, then launched straight into a bubbly ABLOOM, and the hall hushed to hear him and watched him with adoration. Bravely for the shy person I have heard he is, he seemed to look into the eyes of almost every member of the audience. I have mistakenly thought before that an artist was doing so, and then later learned that they could see nothing but the lights from the stage. In this case, however, we knew the lights were on us and not him, so I feel fairly sure that he could see people, and he must have liked the reactions he observed, as he came over all smiley whilst he sang, which was lovely to see. It made a change from watching the similarly grand Boo Hewerdine, for instance, who never once opens his eyes whilst singing; I’m surprised he manages to leave the stage safely without stumbling over the edge, as I’m sure he glues them shut for the night. Although at least taking photographs of Boo isn’t as unnerving for either party as when the performer is a few feet in front of you and almost staring back, which is a bit embarrassing for both.

Abloom strikes me as an intriguing choice of opener, as most performers burst onto the scene with something that grips you by the neck, whereas this was calm and soothing. Perhaps the choice stemmed from the references in the song to the curtain-up with no time to rehearse, and being a fragment of a masterpiece, which the evening’s performance certainly turned out to be. Fortunately, the daring choice worked wonders and was widely welcomed by the audience.

After finishing a majestic Abloom, whilst still in Cheshire cat mode, Roddy quickly tuned his guitar without comment and began to play the brilliant, floaty and fun SMALL WORLD, as delirious cheers erupted throughout Room 101. The instantly likeable song is a perfect example of how Roddy seems to be able to tease out endless permutations of chords and notes to form a myriad different perfect pop songs. I can think of no one else who has produced so many fine, catchy tunes—before we even start on the canny lyrics—that don’t ever sound even remotely like one of his other fine and catchy tunes. It seems only Roddy could literally stumble upon MustDestroy.com and realise how cleverly it could be moulded into a song. I wonder if any Frame fans have been truly tempted to switch their company’s security shredding contract solely for the sake of nostalgia, despite that firm’s dubious slogan of ‘more destructive than a great white’.

The Room 101 crowd was acting terribly un-London; rather than being stuffy and reserved, they were exploding with enthusiasm right from the start, particularly after Small World. Roddy seemed to feed off that excitement and appreciation and beamed freely, calling out ‘Where have you been?!’ Perhaps he didn’t expect everyone actually to answer, but most of the hundreds in the hall called out with some sort of reply, a few listing every town on Roddy’s tour (but don’t worry, I checked them out and they didn’t look like scary stalkers, just people with taste). He waited until the booming replies died down and heard someone ask where he had been, then coyly quipped ‘I’ve been watching TV.’

Television seems important to Roddy. I’ve heard part of Michael Gallagher’s chat with him on the website, and chuckled upon hearing, when Michael said he’d better let RF get on with his plans for the evening, as though they might involve some Hollywood-style celebrity-filled party, Roddy reply that he’d checked his diary and his plans for the evening involved watching the telly. Is Roddy really an American? Although I’m an American (non-werewolf) in London, I still abide by the US law that we must have the telly on at all times, even when not watching it, so I wondered if Roddy was becoming one of us. Still, perhaps that’s proof that television doesn’t poison the mind, as Roddy’s mind is clearly anything but poisoned. Perhaps it helps unleash all that impressive imagination instead; I find it encourages dreaming and keeping your head in the clouds, which for some of us is no bad thing..

Between songs, Roddy changed guitars and decided to visit the woman who was mixing the sound backstage, politely excusing himself as he departed, and had a quick chat with her about what improvements he desired in the guitar level. Here was another refreshing experience for me; I’m used to artists gesturing angrily from a distance at the sound people, or in Van Morrison’s case, throwing the odd mike around and acting as though he were threatening to storm off for good.

I should add here that the sound mixer clearly went to a different school than the lighting folk, as she did a fantastic job. From the chimney-sized 12 Bar Club to the mammoth Albert Hall, this was the best sound I’ve heard all year, so clear and not the least bit distracting. Even though people beside me were frequently singing along, which, though I appreciate it’s irresistible for the enthusiastic amateur singer and I’m not knocking it, can sometimes ruin a concert for others if you only hear the audience diva and not the person you paid to hear. Fortunately, this sound mixer ensured that people could happily sing along and still Roddy’s voice would clearly come through above it all, so that’s what we heard. Not an easy task; she was marvellous. I suppose it helped that she had a performer with a voice of heavenly crystal, though.

After sorting out the guitar sound, a still incredibly smiley Roddy started singing SUN, with moving, deep vocals and some marvellous guitar. I get the impression that everyone on the list is a die-hard follower, so I’ll disappoint you when I admit to not yet owning Frestonia, so Sun was new to me. This truly gorgeous, solid song was fitting for many simple, basic reasons on this evening. For instance, London had received a dreadful drenching so we would have all have loved to have seen the sun in superficial terms, and the song refers, I believe, to lighting directors, which as I have explained rather featured in the evening. This song really struck me as a delightfully old-fashioned love song, the type with an opaque innocence as it speaks of kisses rather than focusing on lust. Whilst it could almost pass for old-fashioned in the Cole Porter era, I mean more the David Cassidy type of time—not that I’m saying Roddy and David have much in common, but it just made me think back to when I was a kid and you could turn on the radio and hear songs about summer breezes and beating hearts and they simply weren’t as graphic or X-rated as so many today. I’m not quite the prude I sound, I just think romance in a song is more exciting on a different level. Still, my tiny mind might mean that I’m completely misinterpreting the song, as I sometimes do, and no doubt someone will tell me it’s about the bitter possibility of nuclear holocaust or something. But I enjoy it my way, anyway, and it was stunning on the night.

Roddy then told the enraptured crowd that he was about to play SOMEWHERE IN MY HEART, and he said we should feel free to join in, ‘but mind you get it right!’ With a wry grin, he explained that he didn’t want some of us spoiling it for the rest. It is surprising, really, that this song that can’t be played on the radio without everyone around jumping up to dance can be just as exciting when played by one man and his acoustic guitar, with no wild sax solo or beating drums. Roddy made it full of life so we didn’t notice that it might have been played any other way, and sure enough, the audience helped out with the vocals, though I couldn’t possibly comment about whether they got it right. I myself do those around me the favour of never singing in public, so I would always be blameless. But really the whole performance was nothing but impressive. He sang a cappella the bridge of ‘is that you can’t buy time…’ and, naturally, skipped the electric guitar solo and moved back into the chorus. An amazing performance, and it was bold of Roddy to sing the big hit so early in the set, as most other performers might feel the need to delay it in order to keep the punters interested. Of course, any punters hearing Roddy would need no false baiting, as every song, including the brand new ones, is such a treat.

He then took out of his pocket an A4 list, unfolded and glanced down it, which reminded me of a time I saw Loudon Wainwright III at the Royal Festival Hall, when several times during the night, he kept pulling a tiny piece of notepaper out of his pocket, reading it, and returning it to the pocket. Loudon told us he did so on the instructions of his therapist, and the note said ‘You are a good person!’, and he needed to keep checking and drawing strength from it. Roddy seemed to have fewer concerns about disguising his set list, and when he pulled that out, he reassured us with, ‘Don’t worry; it’s not a poem.’ The one time all evening when the sound failed me—or perhaps it was my ears listening with an American accent to his Taggart accent—-was here when I heard, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not porn,’ which I thought was very curious indeed. It had me wondering for a second if I’d missed some stories in the paper about Roddy’s reputation, considering all the salacious stories going on at the moment with John Leslie and Angus Deayton. He continued to say that we didn’t need any of their lot here, and my mind was still baffled by this not necessarily bad, but still surprising, sudden stance against pornographers, until he cleared things up by saying that there were too many craftsmen and not enough art. Mind you, I’m probably blowing that account by getting that backwards; perhaps he thought there were too many artists----blame my goldfish memory. I think Roddy’s both an artistic craftsman and, uh, a crafty artist, so I’m not sure which he would disparage. Of course, the lyrics of a song he played soon after this episode alludes to a poem by T S Eliot where allusions are its strongest device. As Roddy changed guitars again, someone called out ‘You were a poet once!’ Once?

From his list, he chose WE COULD SEND LETTERS, to the frenzied delight of the crowd. The audience all joined together to provide the ‘ahhhhhhh’ background to the Chorus, and Roddy never bothered to sing the line of the title, as the crowd sang it for him, with startling enthusiasm. My first exposure to this song was through the Best of Aztec Camera CD a few years ago, as I only just bought High Land, Hard Rain last month during a quick (and now fruitful) trip to Delaware, so it is still relatively new to me. It is another example of Roddy’s craftmanship (or should I say ‘art’?) in designing a timeless song that, 20 years later, remains astonishingly touching, full of insight and comfort, and set to a catchy tune that still moves people to sing along. When he finished belting out the beauty of the song, with accompanying masterful guitar playing, Roddy thanked the ‘indie male voice choir down front’.

Perhaps the fact that he was performing in a university, where most of the audience would have been, or would have been the right age to have been, in the 80s, led him to settle into this period of performing songs from that first album, as the next tune was a gorgeous rendition of THE BUGLE SOUNDS AGAIN. His vocals were enormously strong during the number, although Roddy was in amazingly fine voice all night (why doesn’t he get colds in heinous wintry weather like normal people? Does he take Zinc?). Another new song to me, as I am just now filling in my Aztec Camera gaps, it was not only beautiful but also included a rare reference to coin-collecting vampires, which I think is a good thing, don’t you? When Roddy finished, I know we all were wearing a look of awe, which he no doubt saw clearly as we would have been so brightly lit.

Sticking with the teenage songs, Roddy treated us next to THE BOY WONDERS, which I initially thought was ‘the boy wonder,’ and thus about him in his youth as a sort of—not Batman’s Robin, but child protégée. His quick near-rap (‘wrap, wrap, wrap’) section was particularly amazing, and the indie male voice choir kept busy chanting throughout the song ‘High Land, Hard Rain’, even when it wasn’t called for, in fact once or twice during earlier songs, but it was always wonderful. Roddy seemed to gain a vicious momentum and was practically spitting out with unprecedented strength the last part where he joined in with the audience’s chant, quickening the pace. This was amazing and terrific fun, and once again, it was difficult to believe that we hadn’t just heard an eight-piece band accompany him, so strong was the performance. Afterwards, he commented that anyone overhearing would suspect that we were holding a neo-Nazi rally.

His departure from his first album returned us to his last one, and he played one of my very favourites, TOUGH. On the first play of Surf, the three songs that struck me as absolutely perfect were Surf, I Can’t Start Now, and Tough, though the album is so strong that all of the songs are easy to love, and they seem to gain merit with every listen. This tune reminded me of Billy Bragg circa Greetings to the New Brunette, and is deceptively simplistic and perfected by the achingly raw way Roddy sings ‘for’ at the end of the first line of the chorus. He so perceptively describes the look that ‘means must try harder’; I think we’ve all seen it at some point. It was fabulous to hear the song live, when it was just as perfect as on the album. Interestingly, when Roddy introduced it, he pointed out that he would be using the green plectrum to play Tough ‘coz it’s funky.’ He seemed to enjoy playing it as much as we did hearing it. Throughout the night, he really did feed from the excitement of the audience, and seemed to be having as terrific a time as we were, though he was working whilst we were on free time.

Afterwards, he did a bit of tuning on his guitar, a job during which he rarely spoke, so the audience filled the silence with a bazillion different requests. To my right, they desperately wanted Mattress of Wire; to my left, they were determined to hear Spanish Horses, which I would have thoroughly enjoyed but never expected him to play live without a ton of preparation for that Spanish guitar part, plus we’d need a few weeks to rehearse the precise clapping, so I assumed it was like Chocolate Soufflé in that you had to give lots of notice if you wanted it. Despite those two songs being the most audible requests, Roddy stuck to his porn sheet and played OVER YOU, which was fine with us. Although, during all the previous songs, Roddy couldn’t help but beam whilst singing, this was one song he delivered with the passionate sadness and sorrowful looks that you would expect to go with it, as though he was truly aching with an intense pain in the heart.

Unfortunately, some people near us were chatting a bit during it, and they were right up front, which must have been tricky for Roddy unless he was in his own world at the time. I gathered that the talkers were keen fans, so I’m sure they meant no harm; perhaps they’ve been to so many Roddy performances that they forget there’s a chap up there singing a heartfelt song a few feet away and forget they’re not playing the record at home, as usual.

Actually, I was quite impressed throughout the evening by Roddy’s way of stoically dealing with the crowd, in that he was never fazed by the vehement demands for favoured material, any stray comments lobbed in his direction (eg the one about once being a poet, and there were others----no nasty heckling, I’m glad to say), people walking up to the stage and putting drinks by his feet—which caught his attention a few times as it did look as though they were placing a gift at the feet of the tribal leader, and a bit of chat during his slower songs. He really didn’t seem to let it faze him, as I gathered he was aware that we all adored his work and were thrilled to see him, even if we didn’t behave as well as we should.

Perhaps as proof that he forgave us, when he finished Over You, Roddy sincerely thanked the audience for listening to his new songs, which meant a lot to him. He then felt the need to qualify that by saying that he didn’t mean that in a corny way. Everyone cheered for him. Frankly, I was surprised he played so many old songs, which was great as well, but if he had played nothing but the entire Surf album, I would have still walked away afterwards quite gratified. I have a scary number of albums in my collection, and yet Surf is one of possibly only three for which that would be true. He really needn’t thank us for listening to glowing poetry (or art); he’s a bit confused about which way the gratitude should go, bless him.

Next, he started playing the introduction to a song that I thought for a moment would be the delightfully bright High Class Music. However, everyone else recognised it as DOWN THE DIP (another new song for me) and began playing percussion by clapping enthusiastically, but then Roddy stopped right away and announced that he wanted to tune a little more, though to our untrained ears, the guitar had sounded great. ‘Sorry to stop you mid-clap, as it were,’ Roddy said as he carried on tuning. Once he started again, he delivered an amazingly enthusiastic rendition of the song, less the Bragg or Clash-like folk song than on the album, more bright and bopping foot-stomper. At the end, he backed away from the mike upstage and pounded away at the guitar with impressive power for so long that I could see we were all thinking that it was too late to reach for our cameras, as he’d surely finish any second now. But he continued on and on with admirable energy, long after even Jimi Hendrix’s arms would have fallen off (well, that’s probably already happened, but you know what I mean). Perhaps the song is a sort of Dorian Gray portrait that transforms him back to his teens so he can play with the strength and enthusiasm of a child; mind you, I’ve seen no evidence that the Roddy in his late 30s lacks any of that anyway.

Without pausing between songs, and remaining in perhaps the same genre (in terms of clear Clash/Bragg influences), Roddy then played another of my pre-Surf favourites, the steady and striking BIRTH OF THE TRUE. After this outstanding performance, Roddy made no attempt to disguise that he was loving it as much as we were, if that was possible, because our admiration for this was seemingly unmatchable. At the end, he admitted that he’d enjoyed it, and as he had ended the tune with a bit of a crescendo on the guitar, he bemoaned the fact that he was turning into the type of person who ended all of his songs in that way.

Moving to The North Star for the first time this evening, Roddy surprised me by launching into the ravishing REASON FOR LIVING. I simply couldn’t picture the song being played acoustically, though that’s how I generally prefer to hear things (my old fogie ears can’t take too much grinding electric guitar these days). Roddy proved that I was being closed-minded by playing a blinding rendition of the marvellous song, and again this performance lacked no life despite there being only one man creating all the sound. His deep voice on the marvellous ‘while you were sleeping, the reaper’s been reaping’ and throughout the song was just gorgeous, and yet again the whole hall was jumping around, just having terrific fun with the song.

Proving that he has quite a repertoire from which to draw, Roddy next played STRAY, which I’m sorry to say is another one I don’t have. Its quiet beauty really drew everyone in, and I found myself imagining that the last verse, in particular, could apply to his critics, as a more charming approach than other artists who paint such subjects with bitterness, such as Van’s New Biography. Having since paid more attention to the lyrics, I see this is undoubtedly another misinterpretation on my part. Still, I briefly thought it was a refreshing stance, sort of ‘if you still don’t understand [my words], I want to hold your hand’ …and take more time to help you comprehend, as your lack of ability to do so is a sad failure with which I must help you, that sort of thing. Bear in mind I was very tired after a busy week when thinking all this, but for whatever the reason, I thought the song was lovely. Everyone did; Roddy finished it initially to awed silence, and he justly couldn’t stop smiling.

Next came another beautiful, heart-rending song in MIXED UP LOVE, which I can only say was absolutely marvellous. Roddy followed that with what I think is a classic song, a truly skilfully written piece, BIGGER BRIGHTER BETTER, which never fails to make me stop what I’m doing whenever I hear it just to focus on its every word and note. After the concert, I couldn’t remember which song Roddy had introduced by saying that he’d written it whilst in a car in New Orleans listening to the Talking Heads on the radio, but it only took a moment to realise that, obviously, it’s this one…. The first line is a bit of a clue (car, Louisiana Lake), as is the mention a few lines on of Naïve Melody, the subtitle of a Talking Heads song, This Must Be The Place (aptly covered later by Shawn Colvin). There are so many clever turns of phrase in this song, and the minesweeper line is show-stopping stuff. As always, the delivery of the magnificent song was absolutely stunning, and I’m sure our lit-up (in many ways) faces conveyed the WOW that I’m certain all of us were feeling as he finished.

Roddy then played a song from Dreamland, the one whose verses remind me of the tune from the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down: BLACK LUCIA.. It was a warm and lovely delivery of a bright song, and you’d think we’d be getting jaded by now by all this brilliance, but this crowd knew how to convey their enthusiasm, and I’m confident Roddy got the message clearly.

Afterwards, Roddy was bombarded with so many insistent requests that a lesser man would be cowering behind the backstage curtain, but he just casually turned it into a joke. Whilst glancing over his set list, he told us that we hadn’t managed to guess right yet, though he then admitted that he might just be changing the answers.

The answer this time was SURF, a fabulous and stunningly gorgeous performance of the first song I chose from that album to put on a minidisc compilation for the commute to work. Its lyrics describe itself—the epitome of amazing grace----and I’ve always so strongly related to the chorus. However, I remember, when I first heard the song, being surprised that a writer of Roddy’s skill resorted to using ‘baby’ in the chorus, as it is usually a forced rhyme when someone can come up with nothing better, and I’ve often wondered how many people really call their partners ‘baby,’ despite the term appearing in so many songs. But now I gather from Michael’s chat with him that it was a deliberate device instilled by Roddy as a sort of allusion to all of those songs. Also, I was shocked to hear him say that he was ‘overcome by her smell,’ as Roddy always dwells more on innocent thoughts and feelings of romance rather than delving into the musty, lusty world of uncontrollable passion, but my faith was restored when I realised he said ‘spell’, not ‘smell,’ which made much more sense. At that point in the concert, some people mistook the pause for the end of the song and started applauding, but soon realised their error, so we did not miss any of his grand performance. Astonishingly, some people in the back were talking during this song, which must have been quite off-putting for Roddy, although he gave no indication of it.

As it would seem impossible to top that, Roddy ended the show there, thanked us so much for coming and wished us peace and love, even doing the peace signs with his fingers, though I’m happy to confirm he looked nothing like Richard Nixon when doing so. At about ten past ten, he was off.

Needless to say, such a strongly zealous crowd was not going to give up there, so we stomped and clapped until Roddy reappeared a few minutes later. He moved straight into the beautiful classic KILLERMONT STREET, with which almost the entire audience sang along. Thankfully, though it was terrific that everyone joined in, Roddy was still the most audible of them all, thanks to his amazing voice and the star sound mixer. Thus everyone got to combine the joy of joining in with the privilege of hearing Roddy perform live, without missing the bliss of the latter.

Then Roddy introduced the next one with a warning that those in the audience who were under 35----I didn’t see any such animal, but perhaps they were in the back----would not have heard of the next song, OBLIVIOUS. Here is another timeless pop song, written when he was a boy wonder. My favourite rendition before this night was played on The Songwriters’ Circle programme when he appeared with another long-time favourite of mine, Neil Finn, and Graham Gouldman, who wrote Bus Stop, For Your Love, No Milk Today, and I’m Not In Love. Not only was he accompanied by outstanding backing vocalists, but Roddy wowed even those talented musicians throughout the show. They were amazed by how many chords he used, and Neil Finn even gave up playing along on this song as he couldn’t keep up. With such seasoned musicians overwhelmed by Roddy’s skills, you get a better sense of his incredible talent on the guitar, as well as everything else.

Here, rather than other famous singer/songwriters accompanying him, he had the indie male voice choir as well as the addition of most of the women in the audience, somewhat shakily providing the harmonising ‘ahhhhhhhs’ before joining in with ‘obvious’ and ‘oblivious.’ The whole performance was thrilling for us and Roddy, as well, who said it was great to have such accompaniment, and that that was the first time that the women had sung along.

When he finished, he studied his A4 list and said he really didn’t know what to play next. Again, he was bombarded with requests, and he teased everyone by playing the introductions for a succession of songs at rapid speed, before finally settling upon one of the more loudly requested songs this evening, MATTRESS OF WIRE. Here again is another fine example of clever lyrics by a youngster, particularly the last verse, and the performance was awesome.

With that, he left us again, for much longer this time, and we were given a brief busy light show in his absence, but fortunately he returned for one more song. He said he was going to leave us with this lullaby, which got my hopes up for the stunning Hymn to Grace, but instead he played FOR WHAT IT WAS. It was absolutely gorgeous, moving everyone in the hall to respecting silence, and it was a perfect choice for closing the evening. The song has such profound lyrics, including ‘And if the prophets knocked my door with all that heaven held in store, I’d probably ask to see a sample’ and ‘Wish my unhappiness could be addressed and sent To all the rootless, fruitless hours that I have spent in dreams’, both of which I can relate to well. The delivery of this treasure was awesome, and he left us, again wishing us peace, but this time he did not return. He had played for just over an hour and a half.

Overall, the evening had been an amazing success, with Roddy appearing to have a great time, as did all of the audience. They were enthusiastic without being annoying, and everyone was friendly to each other, presumably because we all have such brilliant taste in music. I have been to many concerts that have been almost ruined by the poor behaviour of someone nearby---a drunken woman who sang throughout an Elvis Costello concert, usually a different song from the one he was doing and drowning him out; a lesbian couple who practically had clothed sex on my foot at the Borderline---I have nothing against lesbians but I don’t particularly want anyone at all to have sex of any kind on my foot, particularly when I’m trying to see past them to Dar Williams, etc. In Room 101, people were singing along in a happy, inoffensive way, often making a useful contribution, and the people who talked seemed to just forget themselves and no doubt would be horrified to realise that they were as loud as they were, or so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

I walked away from it elated, and though I would have melted away if Roddy had sung Hymn to Grace and I Can’t Start Now, I could hardly believe how many of the songs I’d been desperate to hear he had managed to perform. I certainly didn’t feel the slightest bit disappointed; I was thrilled.  So I dragged my newly converted Frame fan friend out with me, as she realised that she was also of Old Fogie age and could barely move for the back pain from standing so long, complained justifiably of having been dazzled by the lights early on and having some enthusiastic fan scream continually in her ear. I tried to fish out from my briefcase some Nurofen for her in hopes of erasing those little problems and leaving her solely with the fond memories of the evening that I shall always retain.

We left Room 101 and stepped out of the warm shelter of the ULU where we had seen an unmistakably brilliant concert, and as we left in the rain, we called it genius.

So for those of you who want the Cliff Notes to the concert and cleverly couldn’t be bothered to read all the waffle above (which would surely be the only people still awake at this point), here is the set list--- much the same as the Glasgow gig, it seems:-


Small World


Somewhere in My Heart

We Could Send Letters

The Bugle Sounds Again

The Boy Wonders


Over You

Down the Dip

Birth of the True

Reason for Living


Mixed Up Love

Bigger Brighter Better

Black Lucia



Killermont Street


Mattress of Wire


For What It Was.


Copyright © 2003 by TC. All rights reserved.

Did you enjoy this review?  Why not leave a comment in the Guest Book?

Home ReviewsRoddy Frame






Hit Counter have visited this page reviewing Roddy Frame performing live at the ULU since 26 March 2005.