Is there a bigger paradox than the recorded live album? Live music is supposed to be just that, live. Recording a live show, as good as that show might be, just seems downright silly. Now, me not being a people person, I’m not much for live shows. It doesn’t have so much to do with the performances as it does with the audience. A bad audience can usually ruin a really great show. Give me a studio recording anytime and I’ll be happy. I can listen to the same piece of music again and again and find something new in it.
On the contrary, there are things about live shows that I love. I grin like a schoolgirl when bands banter with the audience and don’t take themselves too seriously. This is a performance, after all, not a recital! I also love when bands cover songs, either planned or spontaneously. The final thing I love is the chance to be exposed to a new band I’ve never heard before that might play as an opening act.
Enter The Frames. I first caught them recently opening up for their fellow countryman, Damien Rice. Unlike the last time I saw Mr. Rice, this time out he had a bigger venue and seats. Somehow this correlated with his dour mood and lack of dialogue with the crowd. The show was a disaster. A small portion of the crowd rushed to the front while the rest of the people behind us yelled at us for standing. It’s a rock show for fuck’s sake! Get off of your asses! Essentially, for the show to have been a success it should have ended after the Frames’ set.
They were everything that I was looking for in an entertaining show. Self-deprecating, modest, and fun, they proved to me that the headliner is not always the star. At times serious and rock-heavy, as in the first track, “Revelate”, on their most recent live album, Set List, and at others goofy and falsetto, listen to the songs “Star Star” and “God Bless Mom”, the Frames exhibit the goods that earned them fourteen years of loyal Irish fans. One of the best moments on the album comes in the song “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops”, when he tells the story of a dog named Diefer (“D for” dog, he explains) who would sit on the corner and bark at white cars that sped by. At the show I attended, he told a different story, one about waking up one morning and wondering what the hell he was doing in the relationship he was in. This, of course, prompted one of the fans to shout out, “I thought it was about a dog!” Frontman Glen Hansard then amended the story and revealed that the same day he broke up with his girlfriend, the dog on the corner died.
It might, at first, be easy to dismiss the Frames as either an Irish Dave Matthews Band, or even Barenaked Ladies for the violin player and the oft times humorous material respectively, but listen again. The lyrics of the Frames speak to the sensitive and tortured souls in us all, prompting us to want to hang out with the guys after the show and down a few pints of Guinness. The audience participation evident in the disc is indicative of their status in Dublin, where it was recorded, but is not solely because of that. Hansard effortlessly evoked audience participation from the sad sacks at the Damien Rice show. Each song on Set List is a gem, traversing the distances between singer / songwriter quietness and bar band energy. If that’s not enough, they throw in snippets of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, and cheekily play “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This is one of the few live albums that I’d ever recommend, and I do so highly.
Damien Rice – O
Ani DiFranco – Living in Clip
Travis – The Man Who